Pictured in each photo is my work desk, where I teach middle school English in New Jersey. Though I spend most of my time grading papers here, this is also where I write, edit, and have workshopped poems, essays, and stories for the last eight years. I find that I am most productive “at work” while at this desk, early in the morning, when my mind is the freshest, before the home room bell rings.
I write at home, of course, but I’ve made a sort of pledge to myself not use a computer once I’m there with my family. It does not always end that way, but I try to turn my mind off after three.
This is constant labor, trying to keep my desk(s) organized. It is often piled with essays, handouts, and books; however, this is as good as it gets.
I keep one desk, the desk pictured closest, mostly empty, for this is where “Student of the Day” (picked through a correct answer to a random trivia question) will sit and discuss his or her week and or weekend.
My students and I attempt to spend time every day discussing what is important to them—their excitements, their stresses, their schedules—often, what is trending on Netflix or how many quizzes they have this week.
I like sharing my space; it levels the hierarchy of the classroom. And the leather office chair for the “Student of the Day” is way comfier than mine.
To be more specific:
1. Office chair: It is very uncomfortable but keeps me from sitting while I teach.
2. Desk Plotter: Though not completely in focus, my plotter is probably the most important thing in my classroom. It lists my lesson plans, appointments, any date-nights with my wife. I keep every desk plotter from the previous two years when mapping out my next school year. I also enjoy looking back to see what was happening on any given date.
3. Books: My students and I complete bi-monthly choice reading projects, where students and I read a book, picking various genres, every month. To model a love for literature, I am always reading with them (not checking emails or grading). Currently, I’m reading Ghost Like a Place by Iain Haley Pollock (amazing poet and teacher). Also, today, students read and discussed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream Speech” from an anthology of literature.
4. Computer: I wish I was fancier and used a MacBook Air or something like that, but I do all my writing here with my fabulous Dell OptiPlex… Like discussed earlier, I find it much easier to write where I work. Hundreds of documents organized by year, genre, and subject are saved on USB hard drives. This process works for me. And for extra inspiration and a love of Dragon Ball Z, tapped to the computer tower is a Vegeta and Trunks figurine (I have a giant poster of Goku displayed in the back of my classroom too).
5. Pictures: Without being too sentimental, I have pictures of my wife, daughter, various teachers, and previous students. I like to think these pictures tell a story, my story—a husband, father, friend, colleague, and educator. What I find most interesting is over the last eight years, how my life has changed, and how every photo narrates something about that change—from first year teaching, to marriage, to fatherhood.
6. Record Player/Vinyl: After initially moving in with my wife, I needed a place for my records; and so, my record player and vinyl collection found its home in my classroom. Students are amazed at the “simplicity” of a record player. Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall is currently playing.
7. Name Plaque: I am only adding this to my post because I think it’s funny. Sure, I have my MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Camden; but who cares! My students ask me all the time what MFA stands for. I tell them, and they laugh—and think it’s ridiculous that I have to remind myself that I am a “so called master” of creative writing.