Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Unexpected Value of What's In A Desk

Day 8 of the +TeachThought 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Reflective Teacher Month and I have to say that I'm feeling pretty humbled and privileged to be sharing this fantastic teaching journey with 80 passionate educators.  When Beth Leidolf and I started talking about a blog challenge a while ago on a Twitter Chat I was running for TeachThought I honestly didn't think we would have the response we've had.  Even if we had only had 2 other teachers join us it would have all been worthwhile.  80, currently, is fantastic and we know the connections made are going to be so important in creating a useful, motivating and trusting community through +TeachThought.

So, back to the question at hand - What lurks in my desk drawer?  For many years I didn't have a desk - we turned it into a writing hub for students to use.  This was one of the best things I ever did.  I was hardly ever sitting down anyway.  In my last school, while I did have a desk, (it was part of the environment and expectations), I still used it very little and it was generally taken over by groups of students - great workspace for them.

This post isn't so much about what was 'in' my desk as what was on students' desks at the beginning of each term and what it lead to...

At the start of every term I always wrote an personalised message to every student, always including something I was proud of them for and encouraging them to set goals in a particular area for the coming term.  (If we had student desks at that time, the notes were left on the desks for them before they moved the desks to where they wanted to sit).  It's something I've done since I started teaching in 1999 and I've done it for all age groups.  It takes such a long time and one term I decided that maybe I could put my time into another area for the students, that the students, while they liked the notes, wouldn't particularly worry if the notes weren't there.  This was the year I had a Year 8 class, (12 - 13 year-olds).  Well, I certainly got that wrong.  The first students arrived and started looking around the classroom and then started giving me odd looks.  I think it was the beginning of our third term together.  Very puzzled looks ensued and a certain amount of muttering to each other.  Of course I had to ask what was wrong - while I was welcoming them to Term 3.  They were not impressed.  "Where are our notes?  You always write us notes."  I replied that I didn't think they'd miss them that much and that I wanted to put energy into other areas for them.  The disappointed looks - and a few comments - said it all and the message really hit home when many of them opened up their desks and showed me all the previous notes, including the start of term ones, that I'd written that were now selloptaped to the inside of their desks.

Guess what I did that night...yes, I went home and wrote 32 notes - and also apologised for the lack of a 'welcome back' note.  Something else curious happened.  I started getting notes from the students put all over my laptop, in my desk, etc.

Sometimes we underestimate our wonderful students and we make assumptions about what is important to them.  It showed me just how important it is to our students to be treated and understood and  respected as individual human beings.

This is the most valuable item I've ever found in a desk.


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