cluttered desk

A recent headline in The NY Post about a principal throwing out all of her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets has been making the rounds on Facebook http://nypost.com/2015/10/18/principal-forbid-teachers-to-sit-so-she-threw-out-their-desks/

According to the Principal, “It’s the 21st century — you don’t need desks,” Connelly said, sources told The Post.”

As the saying goes, “everything old is new again” and apparently this nutty administrator thinks it’s time to bring back the Neolithic Era when humans never sat and spent their days foraging for food instead. No doubt her teachers’ waistlines might benefit from being denied an opportunity to sit down on occasion to grade papers, plan, contact a parent, check their ever-exploding district email inbox, or just to eat their lunch. Chronic Homo Erectus-itis, however, would lead to worse health for their feet and backs as they would surely develop blisters and sciatica from standing up all day.

Principal Connelly not only views teacher desks as passé, but apparently filing cabinets have also gone the way of the dinosaur.

filing cabinets

As in true administrator fashion, when teachers inquired as to how they should do their jobs as a result of random and poorly thought out administrative decision-making, her response was typical of what teachers are left to do every single day in schools across America:

“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said.

As to where teachers should grade papers, Connelly answered, “Use the lunch room,” sources said.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if one were to walk into the administrative offices of this particular school, there would still be desks and filing cabinets. As much as I am at times an obnoxious proponent of going paperless at my school, I still need a desk and a couple of filing cabinets dang it! In case Principal Connelly can’t possibly fathom why a teacher would still need a desk and a filing cabinet in the 21st century, here is my top ten list of why teachers still need desks and filing cabinets:

  1. There is still an inordinate amount of paperwork that comes with being a teacher (most of it inflicted upon us by our districts) and we need somewhere to store all of those papers. I have personally gone almost completely paperless but my desk still looks like an atomic bomb went off at Kinkos because of all the mountains of forms I get from my school: IEPs, tablet computer agreements, testing schedules, packets worth of information that could have been sent in an email or posted online, lesson plans, parent contact folders….you get the picture). Before I became a teacher I did stints as an administrative assistant in the office world, and I have more paperwork to deal with as a teacher than I ever had when I was paid to be a full time administrative assistant. Now on top of all of my administrative duties, I also have to teach and grade and plan.
  2. Even though I post all of my class materials online so that my students can access it with their tablet computers rather than me making copies, I still need to keep a few class sets of materials in case the school Wi-Fi is down. God forbid I’m left in a class of forty fourteen year olds for ninety minutes with no Internet access and no back up plan! Teachers need a place to store those materials, and since about the 18th century that place has been a filing cabinet.
  3. Most teachers sit at their desks to eat their lunch. Running off to the teachers’ lounge is time consuming. My school doesn’t even have a teachers’ lounge anymore. Plus, most teachers don’t have time to chit chat in the teachers’ lounge and are shoveling food in their mouths with one hand and grading papers or responding to emails with the other during their lunch.
  4. There are times during the school day when sitting at your desk is perfectly acceptable. If your students are engaged in responding to a writing prompt, there is no need for the teacher to be circulating the room and they will probably have to be grading some of those essays while the students are writing if they plan on being able to give the students any prompt feedback about their writing.
  5. Most teachers spend an enormous amount of time on the computer these days and walking around with a laptop in your hands all day would lead to some vicious carpal tunnel.
  6. Current educational trends expect teachers to be “guides on the sides,” not standing in front of the room giving a lecture. If your students are working independently on a student centered learning assignment, why shouldn’t we be able to sit down at a desk every now and then?
  7. Shoes are expensive. I have yet to find any pair of shoes that will make it through a year of teaching without some serious damage due to the amount of walking and standing already involved in teaching, even for those of us that are still permitted to keep a desk. I have had two shoes break right in the midst of teaching and I had to hobble around for the rest of the day wearing broken shoes. (Note to female teachers: always have a backup pair of shoes and a pair of flip flops or slippers you can put on your feet during planning. Your feet will thank you).
  8. Spider veins are painful and unattractive. Teachers don’t make enough money to afford the surgery to remove them.
  9. Would this Principal ever think to remove student desks and force them to stand all day with no readily available hard surface to do their work?
  10. Teachers are professionals. Teachers should be able to decide on their own when they need to be circulating the room and when they could use the time more productively at their desks.

Did I miss something? Leave a comment below if you have another reason Principal Connelly should immediately return her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets (if they haven’t already been stolen by other desperate New York teachers in need of an extra filing cabinet or more surface space to store papers).

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