During the 15 years I was a teacher, the bottom and middle drawers in my teacher desk were filled with all sorts of goodies. The drawers welcomed students and aimed to make their world easier, better and happier. I don’t know what the drawers would say if they could share their experience, but I do know what they did for over 2000 students.
Decades later, I count myself lucky to still be in contact with students from my classroom days. They may not remember historical dates or which leader led which battle, but they do remember those drawers in my desk. They remember the treats, they remember the stuff, and they remember that it was all there for them. Jamie remembers the mirror, Ally remembers the dark chocolate, John remembers the pencils, Rachel remembers the jellybeans, and Krista remembers the glitter. Here are seven reasons why I kept an open desk policy.
It makes the room theirs.
Being a teenager isn’t easy. As teachers, we can’t fix everything, we can’t remove every obstacle and often we only have 40 minutes a day to make that positive impact. Enact an open door and open drawer policy. Those drawers lessened economic barriers, evened the playing field and made life easier, better and happier for all those who entered.
It keeps stomachs full.
All students don’t start off with the same opportunities. We never know who didn’t get to eat, who won’t eat, or who goes home to what situation. Sometimes the snacks were a reason to come in and have a chat. Sometimes they helped with nerves for a big exam. Sometimes the drawers helped to curb hunger and allowed focused work to take place. We all get hungry sometimes, why not have something to eat? Here are some of the snacks I kept in my drawer:
- Granola bars
It can offer a much-needed pick-me-up.
After 2:20 my school day shifted to extracurricular activities. But since the workday began at or before 7am, the early afternoon often saw an energy reduction. Sure, there were healthy snacks, extra water and a nutritious lunch, but there were times that we could all use that extra boost. That dark chocolate around 4p .m. was a lifesaver!
It helps solve student problems.
Everyone needs something, sometime. Finishing that extra credit project, making that birthday card for a friend, leaving a note for a teacher or hanging up work that brings you pride—these and about a million other things take place over the course of one school day. Sometimes the drawers helped students be prepared and literally hold things together. My list of problem-solvers included:
- Pencils, sharpies & EXPO markers
- Colored pens & highlighters
- Crazy glue, glue & glue sticks
- Staple remover
- Index cards
- Extra post-its
- Extra supplies (paper clips, binder clips, staples, scissors)
- Double sided Velcro, Fun-tak and tape of all sorts
It keeps kids in the classroom.
Throughout the school day, kids “needed” stuff and if I had it in my drawer, it limited the amount of time or excuses used in order to try to leave the room. It also meant that if there were limited funds or access at one’s home, the items were still available for all. No nurse runs for a sore throat or quick CVS trips for extra deodorant required—it was all in the drawers. Keeping these items on hand kept students in my classroom:
- Static Guard & lint roller
- Lip balm
- Spray deodorant
- Throat lozenges
- Baby powder
- Nail file
- Hair ties
- Nail polish remover & clear nail polish
- Tide-to-go pens
- Needle, thread, safety pins
- Dental floss, mouthwash & Wisps (disposable toothbrushes)
It helps meet students’ needs.
Thirty different individuals in a class meant 30 different brains, personalities, and needs. Multiply that times five classes a day plus four major school clubs and there were many of us walking through that classroom door who might need something at one time or another. Sometimes the drawers helped to manage blisters, cracked skin, running makeup, stinky and sticky fingers, feminine hygiene or itchy eyes. Sometimes they eliminated odors, provided supplies and sometimes they made a student smile and made their day better just by being present. My “need-meeters” included:
- Baby wipes
- Unscented anti-bacterial lotion
- Band-Aids, gauze & Neosporin
- Unscented hand lotions
- Contact solution
- Menstrual hygiene products
It keeps kids’ spirits up.
Humor, authenticity, honesty, kindness and trust are significant character traits of a welcoming teacher and a safe environment. Every teacher does his/her best to “hook” kids, grab their attention, and do something to “make” kids want to keep coming back every day. Sure, they have to be there, but they don’t have to like it. Joy is infectious, kindness is powerful and laughter is truly the best medicine. Sometimes the drawers added sparkle, created something out of nothing or helped to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. It never mattered the students’ backgrounds, grades, interests, spirits or obstacles—the drawers were open and ready to lend a hand. The following items helped boost my students’ spirits:
- Quote/motivation books
- Thought provoking question books
Although there have been constant changes to the world of education – I wouldn’t change a thing about the contents or character of those drawers. When I left the only school I ever officially taught in, I made sure to thank those drawers for the part they played in helping to make a difference in the lives of others.
What do you think? Would you open your teacher desk to students? Why or why not?