Spanish teacher removes desks, redesigns classroom

More stories from Ellen Garrett

Due to some students feeling trapped or uncomfortable while sitting in desks for seven hours at school, Spanish teacher Chandler Ochoa removed the desks from her classroom. Ochoa said opting for chairs and creating a more flexible learning environment was a necessary change not only for her teaching style, but for her students’ comfort.

Ochoa had the concept to switch from desks to chairs from other Spanish teachers that she follows online. The main reasoning behind the switch was the way that desks impacted her room and teaching.

“I was always having to arrange desks, and push desks out of the way or do things around desks, a lot of times I would just take kids out into the hall because with my bigger classes, we just wouldn’t have room in here with the desks,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa took the chairs from a hallway near the language department, where they were waiting to be used by whoever needed them. After playing with the idea of making a more flexible learning environment, finding the chairs in the hallway made Ochoa realize that it was the perfect time to change her classroom.

“They were the exact amount of chairs that I needed, literally I took them all. It was kind of a sign that this is the time to do it,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa did have to have the desk removal approved by administration. She had a meeting with principal Lisa Moore to make sure that the change could be made successfully.

“She had some questions just to make sure I had thought everything out before I totally got rid of all of them,” Ochoa said.

Substituting chairs for desks may seem like it would make class work harder to do without flat desk space, but Ochoa believes that the flexible learning environment still allows her students to do classwork as successfully as they had before.

“They can sit on the floor and do stuff, they can do work on chairs, I just really wanted a more flexible space to allow them more options and have it be more comfortable,” Ochoa said.

However, some students view the change from an opposite perspective.
“I think it’s really awful because we don’t have desks. It’s really hard to do schoolwork because we don’t have desks to write on,” sophomore Annika Senn said.

Ochoa believes that sudden change is to blame for some students’ views on not having desks.

“Some students are like ‘Are we really not going to have desks anymore?’ Because I just think that change in general is hard, especially because they’re in desks in all their other classes. For some I think it’s a nice change to come to,” Ochoa said.

As soon as she made the change, Ochoa said she could already see a difference in the way her classroom felt.

“We can play a game and use the whole classroom, we don’t have to be up front. The room feels twice as big, because you don’t have these clunky things in your way,” Ochoa said.

The new arrangement also makes discipline and addressing students easier because of the open space.

“I’m also closer to them. I can easily walk through the aisles and see how everybody’s doing, and I feel like I can be more one-on-one if I need to be with students. It’s easier for me to get to students, not having to maize through desks,” Ochoa said.