A Guide To Setting Up Your Teacher Desk for Success

August 10, 2023

If you’re reading this, chances are you want to improve your desk setup. Whether you’re a new teacher or an experienced educator ready to conquer clutter, this guide is for you.

But keep in mind that a good desk setup doesn’t guarantee organization any more than owning exercise equipment guarantees fitness. You may also need good habits to align with your filing and storage solutions.

Importance of an Organized and Functional Teacher Desk

A teacher’s desk is the classroom’s command center. It’s often the largest piece of furniture in the room and the first thing a parent or colleague sees when they enter your class. A cluttered desk may make you appear unprofessional. Poor organization undermines your efficiency, leading to lost homework or time wasted looking for things. Clutter can also increase stress and make it hard to focus.

An organized desk makes the classroom look more orderly and welcoming. Take these steps to create a desk that helps you feel more calm and efficient.

Before Setting Up Your Teacher Desk

Consider a few things before setting up your teacher desk, including the room flow, space, and your comfort.

Evaluate Your Desk Space and Arrangement Possibilities

Arrange your desk in a way that works with the classroom layout. Traditionally, teachers place their desks in a corner of the room or against a wall. This keeps it out of the flow of traffic. A small desk can work well, but you may need to use desk accessories to stack materials.

If your desk is near a wall, you can take full advantage of vertical space.

  • Use wall files to store and organize papers
  • Hang a dry-erase board to write messages and reminders with colorful markers, or use magnets to hang notes and pictures.
  • A bulletin board can be used to hang a wall calendar and post schedules or other frequently referenced documents

Ergonomic Factors to Consider

Unlike the average office worker, teachers stand up for much of the day. But they do sit for extended periods (like when grading papers or during student conferences). Adjusting your desk setup for comfort and good ergonomics is important. Discomfort at the end of the day could be because of poor ergonomics.

Teachers can do a few things to help improve their workspace ergonomics. For example, you can use an ergonomic desk chair with lumbar support. The back should allow you to rock back in the chair. Your arms should be level with the keyboard when seated.

Your computer monitor should be within arm’s reach, and the top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level.

Those worried about sitting too much may want to consider a standing desk or standing desk converter. These adjustable desks can rise to a standing position or lower to a normal height to use with a chair. 

6 Essential Desk Supplies for Teachers

You’ll probably stock up on school supplies once or twice during the school year. Consider keeping supplies in a convenient place, and only place things you use daily on your desk top.

1. Calendars

A large calendar lets you visualize a month’s worth of events and lessons. A wall calendar lets students see important dates and upcoming events. Classroom calendars can also help younger students learn the days of the week and months of the year.

2. Writing Utensils

You’ll need multiple writing utensils, but there’s no need to keep a huge container on your desk. You can put a few pens and markers in a pencil holder or storage caddy and store the rest in a cabinet or drawer.

3. Paper and Stationery

You’ll also need copy paper for printing worksheets and other handouts, but you don’t need to keep it at your desk. You can store it in a cabinet or closet and bring it out when you need to make copies.

You might also keep a teacher planner nearby to track classroom planning and student schedules. It can also be helpful to jot down teacher meetings and days off.

4. Desk Organizers

Use desk organizers for frequently used supplies. Remember, the goal is to keep minimal items on your desk; preserve desk space by taking full advantage of drawers and nearby file cabinets.

Some things you can keep in desk organizers include:

5. Filing Cabinets

You can use filing cabinets in your classroom to house paper and other teacher supplies. A small filing cabinet beside your desk can extend your workspace and provide a place to keep your belongings. This can also be a great place to keep a purse or briefcase during the day.

If you don’t have the space for a filing cabinet, consider storage bins labeled with a label maker to remind you (and your students) where everything belongs. This can be a great way to keep students responsible for returning supplies when they’re finished using them.

6. Digital Accessories

While it is a good idea to avoid overloading your desk with electronics, some digital accessories can improve your comfort or efficiency.

  • Laptop stand. If your laptop seems too low, place it on a stand for better ergonomics. 
  • Cable management. Get cord clips, ties, or other tools to minimize cord clutter.
  • Keyboard and mouse. A wireless keyboard and mouse will take up desk space, but your laptop likely works better with them. Using these tools might be more efficient than coping with an inconsistent touchpad.

Ways to Personalize Your Teacher Desk

You spend most of your time at school each week, so you might as well make it feel like home. Consider incorporating these ideas into your workspace.

Photo Displays

An easy way to personalize your space is with photos of your family or pets. On stressful days, it may help to have a photo that’s an instant mood lifter. Realizing that you also like dogs could spark a connection with students. Consider limiting personal items to one or two things. You can put photos on nearby walls or bulletin boards to keep your desk clear.

Photos can also be an educational aid. You can use a digital photo display to show images that support lessons like geography or geometry. You can also ask students’ parents to contribute photos and make a slideshow to share after a break or during a class party.

Create a Color Scheme

You can make your desk area reflect your classroom’s overall color scheme and add coordinating classroom decor. Consider getting printable labels and use an inkjet printer to make custom designs that add color to desk accessories, bins, and drawers.

Every area of a classroom can hold storage solutions, so plan to organize with color. You can group files by color and continue the theme in notebooks, folders, and binders. A popular practice is to use one color for each subject area. Students may love this, too.

How to Maintain a Clutter-Free Desk

Here are some tips to achieve and maintain an organized desk. Consider incorporating these into your routine.

  • First remove unnecessary paper and keepsakes.
  • Sort and recycle papers and discard old or unusable supplies.
  • Look through what you intend to keep and find a place for extra items you don’t need at your desk. For instance, you don’t need four pairs of scissors or multiple yellow highlighters in your pencil cup.
  • Before putting everything back on the desk, you can use cleaning supplies to wipe it down thoroughly.

It can be helpful to keep your desk in order with routines that make it easy to maintain. Consider taking a few minutes to clear your desk at the end of each day. You may appreciate coming into an orderly space the next morning. Try to deep clean your desk and straighten up the drawers each month.

Get the Supplies You Need to Teach Your Best

If just the sight of your desk raises your stress level, it’s probably time for a change. Clear your desk of excess items and get the necessary filing and storage materials. Schedule a little time each day to maintain order. It may help you to be calmer and more efficient, and you’ll model good organization for your students.

About the Author

Lauren Jiles-Johnson is a tutor, mentor, and board president of Waukegan to College, a college-readiness organization in Waukegan, Illinois. Waukegan to College helps fifth- to 12th-grade students achieve their dream of being the first in their families to attend college.

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrans the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.