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!