I’m a proud member of the clean desk club! I was throughout school and still (somewhat) continue to be.
As an elementary school student, I felt so much pride as a member of the clean desk club, as I’m sure many do! But what about those students that aren’t part of it?
Becoming a mom and spending time teaching has widened my view of the clean desk club. I have one child who will clean and organize all day every day if I let her, and while I haven’t seen her desk at school, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was part of the clean desk club at any given moment, too.
On the other hand, I have a child whose brain just does not work in a way where things around him are organized or clean. The more chaotic his surroundings, the better he does in general.
What I’ve learned is that some people just genuinely don’t want or need their workspace to be clean.
So why is the clean desk club a thing? Or desk cleaning days? Or teachers micromanaging the state of their student’s desks?
My first thought is that the teachers doing this know they are more productive when they are organized and tidy, so they feel like their students will be the same. However, we have to also consider the teacher’s needs as well as the students, maybe it’s taking time out of their day to constantly have to wait on students who are searching a messy desk for a paper or book.
How can we as teachers find the balance between a well-run classroom, while also giving our students space to be themselves and feel comfortable in the classroom?
Allot the time to your students who need it to find items in their desks. Give them an early heads-up to start their search while you finish up other miscellaneous tasks.
Minimize the space your students have to keep tidy to cut down on clutter. A teacher I know got rid of desks in her classroom and switched her students to tables. They have their pencil boxes, a shelf in the classroom with book boxes for their books, and a spot in their coat cubby for papers. Everything has a place and it’s easy to eliminate clutter when there’s no space for it.
Stop praising the clean desks. This automatically places shame and guilt on those with messy desks, which is not helpful for those students.
Have real conversations with your students, ask them what their needs are. Do they like clean desks? Do they work better with messy desks? How can you work together as a classroom so that everyone wins?
What is your stance on the clean desk club?