The Teachers’ Room, Faculty Room, Faculty Lounge, or Teachers’ Lounge. Regardless of its name, shouldn’t the space where teachers gather during free periods or unscheduled time be a safe, positive space in which educators can discuss effective teaching practices and how to grow as teachers? Teachers need a place where they can ask their fellow colleagues for help or support regrading a challenging student or issue in the classroom. The Teachers’ Room should be place where educators collect to discuss the art of teaching. While I know that these spaces have evolved over time from places to make photocopies of worksheets and to grab a cold cup of coffee into smaller spaces to grab a warm cup of coffee and sit for a few moments between classes, it seems as though the pendulum has swung too far in one direction.
When I worked at a small Catholic school in Maine many years ago, the Teachers’ Room was a small space with a bathroom, refrigerator, and microwave. Teachers did not gather in this space during their free periods due to its limited size. Instead, teachers sat in their own classrooms and did work or meandered the halls in search of other teachers who were free and wanting to discuss teaching. I often found myself sharing lesson plan ideas with my colleagues during these free periods or asking for help regarding certain students. I attempted to effectively utilize these short snippets of time so that I could have very little work to do outside of school. I also enjoyed learning from more experienced educators, and found myself asking for their suggestions and feedback on situations that occurred in my classroom. While the traditional Faculty Room was not utilized the way in which it should have been at that school, teachers found spaces to discuss teaching and to grow as educators.
At my current school, the Faculty Lounge as evolved greatly in my 15-year tenure. It used to be a large space where teachers would gather to grade papers, plan lessons, check their email, and talk to other teachers about students or lesson ideas. It was a sweet place to hang out and grow as a teacher. After a few relocations over the years, our current Faculty Room is a very small space where very few teachers can collect. It’s often hotter than most saunas in that room and I’ve found that many educators find other, cooler spaces in which to collect and talk about teaching and students. Perhaps due to the extreme temperature of our current Faculty Room, it has transformed into a negative space where teachers come to complain about our school, their classes, their responsibilities, and students. It’s no longer the welcoming and open place that it once was. It’s now a place that I try to avoid so that I don’t get sucked into the negative drama happening behind the scenes at my school. I’m more of a glass half-full kind of guy and I find it difficult to hear so much negativity in one tiny space. In fact, I rarely visit the Faculty Room anymore despite the fact that it provides easy access to coffee. I’d rather take the extra steps needed to walk to our dining commons to grab a cup of tasty coffee than wade through more negative comments. As negativity breeds more negativity, the Faculty Lounge has grown into this black hole of despair. If I wanted to wallow in bad news, I’d simply click over to CNN.com and read about the state of affairs around the world. So, to make a short story even longer, I do not even use the room in my school that is devoted to teachers.
A Faculty Room should be a place where educators come to learn, grow, and relax during the academic day. It should be a safe space in which teachers share effective lessons or ask for help with challenging lessons. The Teachers’ Room should be a place where people want to flock to, not away from. Sadly, the Faculty Lounge at my school has turned into a stinky landfill full of negative trash. Why is that, you ask. I have no idea. Maybe it’s because faculty members feel overworked or unsupported. Perhaps these negative comments stem from the great discord that is felt at the school. Maybe some of the faculty members don’t really want to be teachers and so they are apathetic toward the entire field of education. Who knows exactly what caused this horrible transformation to take place, but it has, and the Faculty Room at my school is now a Complaining Room.
But, it doesn’t need to stay that way. Like we empower our students on a daily basis, can’t just one person make a difference? Can’t I try to foster change at my school? Couldn’t I try to change the atmosphere of the Faculty Room and bring it back to what it once was and now should become? Well, the short answer is, Yes, I should. But, you know me, I’m not one for brevity. So, here’s the full story…
Today, after quickly ducking into the Faculty Room to add some cold water to my coffee to cool it down a bit, I was filled with a sense of gloom and sadness. Why do people feel the need to talk so negatively all the time? Why can’t we spread joy instead of anger and frustration? After making the long trek back to my classroom, I shared my frustration with my co-teacher. “Why is the Faculty Room such a negative space? Why can’t it be a place for teachers to gather and discuss teaching?” I asked her. She then shared her disdain for the Faculty Lounge. “I just don’t get it,” she said. As we talked about this problem facing our school, we both started to realize that we were complaining just like the teachers in the Faculty Room. And that’s when it hit us, the answer to our problem that is. We can try to bring about positive change within our Faculty Room. So, my co-teacher and I designed a little social experiment that we are going to try out tomorrow. During our free period tomorrow, we are going to visit the Faculty Room and start talking about teaching or some great lesson that we have recently done in class. We’re hoping that this conversation sparks more talking and sharing amongst the other teachers in the small room, which will then lead to more positive discussions taking place, transforming the space back into a productive and meaningful place where teachers can gather to grow and learn. Maybe we’re too optimistic, but we feel as though it might work. But, even if it fails, at least we can say that we tried. Now, we know that trying this one time will not provide us with the benefits we’re hoping for, and so our plan is to keep at it from now until the start of our March Break. Hopefully, we are able to create a small wave of positive teacher talk that will eventually build into a tsunami of awesomeness. Who knows what might happen, but we need to try something because we are both sick and tired of having a Faculty Room that breeds negative thoughts and emotions. We want to work at a school that helps and supports it teachers by creating a culture of change and development. Perhaps our social experiment will do just that for our Faculty Lounge.