Thursday, September 04, 2008

13: A Teacher's Throne

I worry when I travel about a school building and continually see a teacher sitting behind her desk. Don’t get me wrong…..there are times when a teacher needs to write a note to a parent, speak privately with a student, or complete an item of paperwork during the day, and it simply cannot wait. But day after day, week after week, I worry when I see a fellow teacher sitting behind his or her desk no matter the time of day.

I agree with many administrators that feel a teacher’s place is out and about among the students. Teaching is not listing an assignment on the board at the beginning of class and then taking a seat on our throne.

However, a teacher’s desk…..even though I rarely sit behind mine….is the hub-center of any well run classroom. It is the spot I head to during class changes. I stand behind my desk and take a quick check over my notes for the day, things that must be done by 3:30, and other important “stuff”.

Here are 13 things I can’t do without on my desk in no particular order:

1. Pictures of my family and former students---On the left front corner of my desk are pictures of my husband, my children, my mother, and a few scattered about of former students. Behind my desk is a bookshelf with more pictures scattered about including each homeroom group I’ve taught. Looking upon the pictures has always helped me to keep my priorities in line and at some of my lowest times has helped to motivate and inpire me.

2. Bell---I have a little tap bell that you usually see on the counter of a business like a drycleaners on my desk. When I’m ready to begin class I simply tap the bell and the sound alerts students that EHT is ready to begin. I tap the bell and begin…..I DON’T tap the bell and wait for quiet….I DON’T tap the bell and ask for quiet. As a class we have already decided the bell IS the signal.

3. Timer---I keep it on my desk mainly to protect it from playful hands, but my timer is used in testing situations and various activities. I don’t invest a bunch of money in fancy timers----kitchen timers work and aren’t costly.

4. Drink/coaster---Students learn early on that Elementaryhistoryteacher has to have a drink whether it’s a bottle of water or fountain coke I’ve picked up on the way to school. In fact many students offer to go get me a Coke as they arrive first thing in the morning since I’m in a much better mood after I’ve had a sip of Coke. :) A good coaster for a drink is key so that it doesn’t prespire all over my papers.

5. Papers to grade/return---Every teacher has to have a system for grading. I take up papers and keep them separate by class group with a paper clip. I put them inside the back cover of my Agenda/PlanBook since I know that item goes home with me each an every night no matter what. When I unpack in the morning I pull out graded papers and place them at the front of the room with my lesson plan, so that simply by seeing them I remember to hand the papers out at the beginning of class. I usually have a helper for the day during each class period…..they know to look for papers to return and by the time I’m ready to begin class students already have them in their hands. Then I just remind them to place the papers in the appropriate place in their folders.

6. Place for “must do today” items---Every day of the school year includes items that must be done that particular day…A head-count for a t-shirt order, a parent note that must be responded to, a book order that must be finalized and turned into the office, etc. Those items are always front and center on my desk and lay on top of my open Agenda/PlanBook….sometimes papercliped to the page for that day. I know by the end of the day those items must be completed and sent on their way to wherever.

7. Agenda/PlanBook----My school system provides me with a spiral bound book that contains a calendar, a teacher’s plan book, grade book pages, phone log, etc. I use it and I’m grateful for it. It’s nice to have everything together in one book.

8. Favorite types of pens/pencils---Isn’t it more fun to do your work when you have the type of pens, pencils, and erasers that motivate you? My personal favorite is black gel pens, but I never keep them stored on top of my desk. I store them in a drawer. When they are seen on top it is too easy for me to allow a student to borrow them and then….then they merely walk out my door never to be seen again. I do have a cache of pencils and pens for student use…..I keep them in a bucket near the front of the room.

9. Staple remover and Stapler---Again I make sure students know my desk stapler and remover is off limits for their use. I keep two staplers for student use at the front of the room along with a student hole-punch as well. Why? Because students tend to be a little rough and something is always on the fritz.

10. Letter opener---just a personal choice. I can’t stand torn envelopes and jibbles of paper hanging about.

11. Thank-you, get well, blank cards for colleagues, parents and always a few that are appropriate for students----when a fellow teacher is feeling low, you need to send a thank you to a parent, or a little “way to go” to a student it is so easy to reach down into my bottom drawer and pull out the type of card I need.

12. A plant----Plants dress a desk up a bit, but I tend to go towards silk so I don’t have to remember to water them plus students knock them off from time to time and dirt won’t get everywhere. I also have a small American flag on my desk at all times as well.

13. “Get to this later” pile----this is a pile of stuff that I run across through the mail or reaches me when someone hands it to me. Perhaps one scrap of paper has an idea on it for a field trip or lesson activity idea….perhaps the paper has info on it about a really great piece of technology….perhaps it’s a lesson plan someone wants me to look over or it’s an activity. I try to clean this pile out once a week, at the end of a term, and at the end of the year, however, there are still items in this pile that have been there since my first week of teaching. :)

So, that’s how my throne checks out….What about yours?

Lots of bloggers participate in Thursday 13. You can locate them here


Anonymous said...

I like that they get you a coke to keep you in a good mood! :)

Unknown said...

What an interesting look into the teacher's desk....I am a homeschooling parent so my desk is multipurpose for teaching, writing, and more.
Have a great Thursday and if you wish pop by my TT at The Cafe at the END of the Universe & Mama Bear Reads.

Anonymous said...

Very good list!! I think I have most of that stuff on my desk too!! I'm a homeschool parent, so on top of a daily life desk, I have school materials too.

Happy TT!! My list is posted with the 13 Most Beautiful Classic Movie actresses.

Chrissea said...

You sound like an EXCELLENT teacher!
Happy TT - just visiting from the list randomly - mine's up too.

Patsy said...

Great blog --- mainly because it brought back all the memories of when *I was the classroom teacher*. I'm now retired but do substituting and tutoring -- so I'm at school almost daily and in a lot of different classrooms -- some good some bad or at least very different from what was mine. I do have a comment about the teacher that sits down. Most days I was up -- around the room checking on students, but I found over the years that there are certain times when I had to sit down and say --- you are on your own. I taught writing --- they had to be able to write for the State of Texas and I had to get them ready. After days of me working with them and helping and prodding there would be that day when I had to find out what they could really do and on that day -- yep I spent the day glued to my seat, but it wasn't easy. More than you wanted to hear and why I had to say it I'm not sure. Have a good day and enjoy the upcomming weekend. :)

Matthew K. Tabor said...

I just counted - I have a desk and four 3-foot wide shelves that function as #13.

It may be time to re-evaluate and re-organize.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Hey, that's my desk!

Actually, I was lamenting today at lunch about how much desk starts off just picture perfect, everything in it's place, but by the end of the day it's a mess. My fellow teacher and friend Judi said, "Well honey, that's because you don't sit behind it all day long. You just use it as a place to drop things until you can get to them."

She's right. I only sit behind my desk during planning (sometimes) and after the kids are gone and I'm doing paperwork. When the kids are in my room, I'm on my feet walking around the room. I don't know how anyone can teach from one spot all day.

M-Dawg said...

My desk has almost the same stuff on it as you. Too funny!

Oh, I have a mini Zen Garden on my desk. Helps to relax at the end of the school day. :-)

I agree with what you said - I very rarely sit at my desk during the day. I'm always up and moving around with the kids. Even during planning I'm running around with my head cut off (like most teachers). :-)

There is an English teacher in our Freshman house that gives the kids their work the first 5 minutes of class and then sits at her desk and plays on her labtop the rest of the block! Unfortunately, she does this for all five of her classes. I don't get it. :-(

Wm Chamberlain said...

I have everything you have on my desk except the letter opener. I also have a laptop that I use to run my projector/smartboard. I have an open file holder that I keep lots of stuff in. I have a scanner and a color laser printer. I have a digital camera and dock. I have a desktop computer that I use to stream video from.

Actually, I have so much stuff on my desk that I actually have two sitting next to each other.

Teacha said...

I have post it note pads all over my desk! I would've like to have seen a picture of your desk. But I'm glad that I have a lot of the same things you do!

Meredith said...

I'm always of the opinion that "a clean job site is a happy job site." While I would LOVE to indulge in a Coke (Super Big Gulp, please!) there's no way my body could manage that calorie intake. Lucky you! So, my desk is relatively clear. It just keeps me feeling more peaceful that way.

I do have a favorite pen, though: my fountain pens are not far from me, and they can't easily be "borrowed" by a student as they're so singular looking.