Principals, It’s Time to Ditch the Desk!

A desk in the way keeps students away.

Schools are going crazy for alternative seating. More and more teachers are giving students options for where they want to sit, collaborate, read, write, problem solve and learn.  If traditional classrooms are being redesigned and reimagined, shouldn’t principals be considering it?  Corporate office space is changing with more communal space, tables and seating for open collaboration. With all this in mind,  I decided it was time to ditch the desk, and here’s why:

1. Look at all this room

Many of our offices are not exactly luxury-suite sized.  For some. it’s four walls of cinderblock with a small space in between. Most office desks take up a lot of space.  Wouldn’t it be better to use that space for  a table and comfortable seating for kids and adults. Make your office a friendly and cheerful place to be.

2. Relationships aren’t built from behind a desk

Think about the last time you had a conversation with someone across an office desk.  Maybe you were at the bank discussing your finances or maybe you were sitting in your doctor’s office getting some test results.  Whatever the situation, when you are sitting across from someone at a desk, you just don’t get that feeling of connection do you?  You need lots of opportunities to connect with students throughout the year, and you can’t do it from behind a desk  Plus, without a desk in your office, maybe in those moments when you would have been tempted to sit down and get lost in paperwork and emails, you will instead get out of your office and find all sorts of connections with students in classrooms!  As principal, you set the tone for school culture, take every opportunity to get out of your office.

This is not the 1980s

When we were in school, our principals wore suits, did important stuff, and sat behind big desks.  At least, I think that’s what they did.  To be honest, I don’t really remember seeing my principals much.  Too many components of education have been slow to change over the years.  Don’t let the this-has-always-been-done-this-way mantra creep into your office.  Offices have desks.  Principals’ offices have desks.  It’s always been that way.  But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Get your flexible seating Feng Shui on

Teachers in my school love flexible seating. It is awesome to walk into a classroom and see students all over the classroom interacting with each other, engaging in learning, moving, sitting, standing, wobbling.  Giving kids the choice of where they want to learn and listen helps make that awesome classroom buzz even more awesome. If flexible seating can do that in a classroom, why can’t the same concept work to change up the vibe in the principal’s office?  When you are minus a big desk, you can get much more creative with your space.

A desk in the way keeps the kids away

It really is plain and simple. Get rid of the desk and create a space for students to feel comfortable in your office.  If you build it, (a new type of principal office that is) they will come.  When there’s a desk in your office, it not only keeps kids away from you, but it has this weird gravitational pull that keeps you away from where you need to be most of the time…with students and staff in classrooms.

Once I made up my mind, I had my custodians carry my desk right out the door and down the hall where it has taken on a new role…copy room paper holder.  I also purchased a mobile desk from Amazon that can be stored discretely in a corner of my office and whenever I want, I can wheel it through the hallways and into classrooms.  I am very excited about my newly designed, non-traditional principal’s office that is sans desk.  Can’t wait for my staff and students to experience the new space.  Have you started emptying your drawers and sketching out a new design for your office yet?  Stop reading this post and get busy!

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Lgarden

Posted by Liz Garden

Liz is the principal of Florence Roche Elementary School in Groton, MA. She blogs regularly at www.floromondaymorningmusings.blogspot.com. When she is not trying to be an instructional leader & mold future minds, she is dealing with her reading addiction, listening to her musician husband sing, & chasing around her wild toddler, Emerson!