Avoid sitting behind the teacher’s desk

Back in the days before the internet and mobile computing, teachers circulated among the class much more often, in and among the learning environment, talking with students, really getting a feel for their progress. Nowadays laptops and computers have changed all that. Now that our school is completely wifi, we can sit down anywhere and get lost in the internet or our emails, check our facebook and so on. None of which are particularly important to student learning.

Our students here in Indonesia, are great, so great in fact, that a teacher could literally walk into the room, sit down and ignore them for an hour or two and the students will not run riot, as they might back home, they will quietly do their own thing without disturbing the teacher.  Our students are so well behaved, that they will allow a teacher to be that lazy. That’s not great.

It’s fair to say that teachers that are closer to and in the learning environment are able to make a bigger impact on student achievement than teachers whom just routinely assign work to the students and then sit behind their desk.  A mobile teacher can encourage students, build rapport, ask individuals questions, quietly motivate, monitor learning and most of all keep the students on task. Sitting behind a teacher’ table or desk creates a barrier, a physical barrier and a psychological barrier between the students and the teacher. It says, “I am busy, leave me alone, do not disturb me unless it is an emergency”.

I’m in favour of moving the teacher’s desk out of the rooms, altogether. They just create clutter and remain a temptation for a teacher to sit down behind them.  Several years ago, as Head of Science I physically moved all the stools out of the Science rooms so that our Science teachers could not sit behind these imposing benches. I notice that chairs have now crept back behind those desks, some of our staff cannot even see over the top of the science benches now.

What if the teacher is tired? Sit down at a student’s table, join in with a small group discussion, or just listen passively. It is amazing how a group of students will work once they get used to a teacher sitting next to them.

What about teacher’s papers, where will they put them? What about the teacher’s laptop? Since we all (should) use ITC regularly in classes these days.  I’m in favour of a small computer docking bay against the wall, for a laptop to plug into the multimedia projector and speakers, in every classroom. But, I’m not in favour of a desk that a teacher can hide behind.

So, I implore everyone, move away from your teacher’s desk, leave the marking or the emails alone and move around your classrooms. Just see if that does not improve the learning in your room!


About Pak Liam

Living, teaching and traveling in Asia.
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3 Responses to Avoid sitting behind the teacher’s desk

  1. S says:

    Really like this.
    I’m an English teacher in a non English speaking country, so I usually have a local teacher in classrooms with me. He tends to spend the entire lesson sitting behind the desk, despite that he can actually speak English really well, and so would be so valuable to the students.

    I’ve mentioned it a few times that I don’t think it’s appropriate to do that, especially when I myself give instructions from every corner of the classroom. On occasion I do sit down, as this send’s a message to the students that they are being to noisy and need to quieten down before I resume teaching. So I do have uses for it, but as a rule, I stand, walk around and lean over shoulders. If nothing else, then it tells the students that I’m interested in their progress.

    • Pak Liam says:

      I could not agree more, an effective teacher is an active teacher. Unfortunately, getting that message across is easy said than done!

      If I want/need to sit, I often will take a spare sit at a students desk and sit down next to them in the middle of the class, it creates a whole new dynamic and you can get a better feel for the ‘vibe’ of the class.

  2. Pingback: Top 10 pages on my blog and search terms that found it | MYP @ Global Jaya International School

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