There is a very big difference between requiring that teachers move about the classroom during class and physically removing every teacher’s desk from their classroom and putting them out with the trash while students watch.
According to the New York Post, the Principal of PS 24 in the Bronx ordered all teachers to clean out their desks and filing cabinets and move them into the hallway for custodians to dispose of them. Reports are that teachers were visibly upset during the process and that their questions about storage of supplies and where to grade papers were essentially dismissed.
According to Principal Donna Connelly, “It’s the 21st century — you don’t need desks,” sources say. When teachers asked where she expected them to grade their papers she responded, “use the lunchroom.” Reports are that she doesn’t want her teachers sitting but all the chairs stayed. Only the desks (and filing cabinets) were tossed.
Principal Connelly doesn’t appear to be on the same page as parents. In the recent Parent Poll by Education Post, 87% of parents cite “Giving teachers the respect, support, and resources they need to be effective” as either a high or top priority.
I’m trying to picture my years in the classroom without a desk and truth be told, it’s hard. I don’t think I ever actually sat at my desk while teaching but I used it for lots of other things.
I used it as a meeting spot for one on one conversations with students, sometimes academic, sometimes personal.
I used it to store supplies.
I used it to keep my winter stash of cough drops for the kids and me.
I sat at it when I had a run in my stockings that needed tending.
I graded papers there.
I wrote college recommendations there.
I stored things students needed held for the day there.
I kept confidential materials there.
I put my purse there.
I used it to make parent phone calls.
I used it to create lessons. respond to emails and fill out quarterly progress reports.
Clearly, for whatever reason, this principal has an issue with teacher desks. I don’t feel the need to understand her issue, however, in order to criticize her recent actions. Not only does it seem ludicrous to take away the desks of the teachers on her team, but it seems dehumanizing to do it during the school day while students are there to see the event unfold.
It’s my hope that these New York teachers get their desks back and that the principal is made to answer for her actions. Perhaps too, a bit of the pride that was taken from them in the process will return as well.