134. Four legs bad…

“So your first task is to design a classroom – something you’ll be doing for real before you know it!”

We glance nervously at each other; the thought of actually having our own classrooms is both awe-inspiring and terrifying in equal measure. Us? Teachers? Cripes!

“Now, you’ve got the outline of a typical classroom here, one between two. There’s plenty of squared paper here – scissors, glue and some educational catalogues so that you can size up the furniture. And remember, the furniture you choose tells us volumes about your educational philosophy. Do you really need a desk, for example? Are you likely to be sitting down while the children are working?”

We murmur shocked disapproval. Good heavens! Heaven forfend! Not me, sir!

“Well, some teachers do. It is one way of looking at the job.” Our lecturer smiles benevolently. “It’s how I was taught, after all.”

And me too, of course. Many was the happy hour I spent standing in a queue at Miss Offord’s table waiting to show her my written work (good) or sewing (bad). Funnily enough, I don’t remember this as being boring; more as a sort of companionable down-time. But I was a child; what did I know?

So we set to with the catalogues; happily searching for drapes with which to fashion a book corner.

And verily, across the land there was a-burning and a-dumping of teachers’ desks, for it was decreed that if a teacher had a desk then naturally they would be sitting at it when they should be up and doing. Idle teachers, begone!

Actually, when I started working at Thrush Woods, I do remember popping into an older colleague’s classroom for some reason to find her actually sitting at a desk in front of the class. I’m not sure what the children were doing, but she cheerfully showed me the pocketed advent calendar which she was sewing for her daughter’s Christmas present.

This being the exception that proved the rule, most of classrooms at Thrush Woods had been de‑desked when I arrived in ’93. But then teachers hadn’t had to do plans or to keep records. Many did, of course, but for their own benefit: no-one asked to see them. If you wanted to know how the children were getting on, you looked at the children.

Then came SATs and assessment booklets; planning folders and profiles; league tables and learning objectives and ‘I can’ statements. The desks saw their chance and – at my school, at least – crept back into many classrooms; discretely skulking in the corner, disguised as book-shelves with legs.

Most teachers now spend longer on their paperwork than they do actually teaching the children, and this needs to be done somewhere. Young and lithe bodies can crouch on the ground or whack out Learning Objectives while hula-hooping. The rest of us need somewhere sensible to sit.

You’d think.

My mate, Mrs Vestibule, is off work at the moment with back problems. It hurts like crazy: she can’t turn, she can’t sleep. Whether sitting or standing, she can’t get comfortable. She’s just been signed off for another fortnight. Delving into the causes with her GP, it has become clear that the problem roots, in no small measure, in her desklessness. Apparently, her school is still a hard-line desk-free zone: the only people to have adult sized furniture are the Senior Management.

Mrs Vestibule teaches infants and finds the children’s chairs too small. Her school is vast, making it a long, long haul to the staffroom. So, she does all her paperwork – marking, planning and so on – while kneeling! She can’t even take in her own furniture because she covers non-contact time, so works in a variety of classrooms. Lugging a personal desk from room to room just isn’t practical.

She raised the issue with the Health and Safety rep at the school and was shrugged off. Mind, this was from the rep who, when a visitor cut open their head on a badly-positioned cupboard, said “well, they should have been more careful.”

Quite right too. Start molly-coddling teachers and who knows where it will end. Give them a centimetre and they’ll take a kilometre. Before you know it, they’ll be demanding all sorts of unreasonable things. Weekends, for example.

Here’s a call to arms, you desk-less teachers! Take to the streets and demand appropriate furniture. You have nothing to lose but your pains! I guarantee your Ofsted inspector will not be writing your report whilst on their knees.


The breaking Parkie news this week from the BBC website is that there have been significant finds in a study using stem-cells to replenish the disappearing dopamine-making cells which are killed off by the condition.  The full report is here.  So much of the brilliant research that is happening now is funded by your contributions via the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and Parkinson’s UK.  Thanks so much.

The blog statistics show that a good number of people have clicked on the link to sign up for the GiveAsYouLive scheme.  It’s such an easy way to contribute and completely free.  Then, every time you buy something from Amazon (or whoever), they give some money to charity.  It is even possible, with Christmas coming up, to buy a voucher – getting one lot of donations – and then use that vouchers to make your purchases – getting another lot of donations.  But that really would be wrong, as Amazon would end up donating to charity twice for basically one purchase.  So I would never suggest you do that.  Never.  Link to the scheme is here.

InfantPhenomenon is organising a quiz night to raise money for Parkinson’s UK.  It’s on Saturday 29th November.  If you have penetrated my secret identity and can possibly make it, please, please do.  Tables of eight: you can book through me or her.



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