Growing up in a very small town, I heard rumors of an old pastime for wayward teens. You’ve probably heard it, too- cow-tipping. For you ‘city-folk’ and more ‘respectable’ country folk, this is the act of sneaking up on a cow- that is asleep standing up- and giving it a nudge. The theory is that the cow will fall over, or ‘tip.’
I never engaged in this little brand of teenage delinquency for a couple reasons. One, I was the kind of kid that would not go out late at night for shenanigans. Two, I lived in the country and owned cows. That meant I had a soft-spot for the bucolic bovine and wouldn’t want to see them hurt. And three, cows actually sleep laying down. Or at least, ours did.
Another part of my youth that relates to what this book is addressing is church. I began regularly attending in high school (maybe another reason I never cow-tipped), and it eventually led me to a career in the ministry. And as any good church-goer or Ten Commandments viewer knows, the Hebrew people once made a golden calf. Moses was mighty upset- as was God Himself, of course- that the Chosen people would choose to worship and revere such an obvious thing. In another religious perspective- Hinduism, the cow is a legitimately sacred creature, being connected to Aditi, the mother of all gods. You would definitely not want to tip a sacred cow.
But a desk? Now that is a cow of a different color. Okay, that was too much of a reach and maybe a bad dad joke. In all seriousness, the desk immediately conjures one thing to mind for many of you.
The desk is a necessary and prevalent tool in education to this day. To some, it is a sacred aspect of schooling- a tool to be revered, if not worshiped. Walk into most any school anywhere, and you will find a plethora of desks. My own school has around two thousand. I know because I counted them once. I think I was being pranked when I was a substitute administrator once.
But until this year, when COVID made social distancing the norm, I had no desks in my room. Not one. I had tables, I had stools, and I had couches. But no desks.
Because I wanted to try something new.
The truth of this book is that it is a collection of my ramblings over the last four or five years as I navigated life as an educator in a south-central Texas college town. I began my journey to rebel against the status quo when I redesigned my classroom as a coffee house and eschewed desks. But this physical transformation was really just a manifestation of my more profound desire to effect change in my own little corner of education.
To, as it were, tip some sacred desks.
In March of 2021, as I pen this preface, educators are on the cusp of a moment in time ripe for some kind of seismic shift in our craft. How we have always done things will not work any longer. I have been teaching both on-site classes and virtual classes since August of 2020. Many who are reading this live in areas that are just now going face-to-face for the first time since COVID shut us all down. To you, I say this:
Things are different.
Teaching to masked faces and the shock of how difficult recognition and connection is with them is but the first of things you will face. (Sorry, that pun slipped out.)
The concepts I discuss in this book were written before the world changed. But as I have utilized them in this bold new reality, they have demonstrated their worth time and time again. They work for connecting with students and for engaging them as well or better than before.
But it will take some getting used to.
So, without further pun or dad joke, let’s get to it.
There are some sacred desks that need tipping.