Why Are There No Desks?

When we were students at Hershey Montessori School, we had the opportunity to learn and work in classrooms that did not have stationary desks. We could sit at tables with friends, we could sit on the floor to work (some lessons required it!), and if we had a lesson that needed it, we could work outside!

Many people who visit Montessori classrooms are curious as to why they don’t see any desks. There are many reasons. One article I read talks about how in Montessori, there is no “full frontal teaching.” The article describes “full frontal teaching” as a teaching method where the teacher is the focus, they do the most talking, and everything the students do is “funneled” through the teacher. In a “full frontal teaching” classroom, all of the children do the same thing at the same time. Therefore, desks are not used.

That article points out that Dr. Montessori called teachers ‘guides’ and ‘directors.’ At Hershey Montessori School, once we learned a lesson, usually in a small group or individually with the guide, we were able to choose which work we did, the length of time we worked on it, and where we did this work. This method brilliantly allowed us the ability to spend more time on a material to understand it and the freedom to do it without feeling the pressure of keeping up with those around us. It also allowed us to move quickly through a lesson if we grasped it. We could chose to learn and explore more about a subject that interested us, which is another benefit of the independence we were granted as students. In “full frontal teaching” classrooms, the environment, pressures, attitudes towards work, and relationships with the teacher and other students are completely different.

In another article here, a man describes his first experience in observing a primary classroom.

“The comings and goings of the children were remarkable. They seemed so assured and confident and decisive. No one was telling them where to go or what to do. It was hard to believe that I was observing a room of children ages three through six.”

“We had each just experienced a classroom dynamic designed a hundred years ago. This model has been repeated all over the world to great effect in decade after decade, in various cultures, religions, economic systems, and political systems. It is successful with children who are wealthy or poor, energetic or lethargic, of high intelligence or of low intelligence, extroverted or introverted. It is a class, a community of children, designed by Dr. Maria Montessori.”

The classroom he describes sounds exactly like the classrooms at Hershey Montessori School! It’s wonderful, as alumni, to have experienced a model of education that has been practiced successfully all over the world for a century.

Alumni, are there areas in your life today that you see have benefitted from this classroom model you experienced at Hershey Montessori School? Please comment below! You can read about more of the Montessori method on our website.

Makella Webster

Hershey Montessori School Alumni Coordinator