The image above is of a dilapidated mall in Bangkok, Thailand that caved in during a rainfall many years ago. As it continued to fill up with rainwater (Thailand is very rainy) mosquitoes started to thrive in the spaces around the dilapidated building. Knowing that mosquitoes posed a threat to public health, a few people who lived in the neighbourhood threw a couple of carp into the water that covered what had been the floor of the half finished mall. The fish ate the mosquitoes. Over the years, more neighbours threw in more fish and about 5 years later it became a mini=tourist attraction filled with hundreds of fish. To find it, you have to really work to find an old fence with a ribbon tied to it where any of one of the residents of the area around the building will point you to where to go in, telling you to be careful and just look - not walk through the building. They don't charge any money, they don't have a neighbourhood organization, and they did not involve the politicians (in fact, last year, after too much press, it was fully destroyed because too many people were coming to look at it and authorities were worried about the building fully collapsing on visitors).
When I was looking through my photos for an image for this post - the image of the Fish Mall seemed perfect.
Schools, as institutions, have a lot of meetings - and too many of them have become places and times for announcements, complaints, and uninspired protocols. Meetings that could easily be held in teachers' classrooms, in outdoor spaces, in libraries or other active, vibrant spots on school grounds, often take place in meeting rooms, offices and spaces away from high energy activities (at least for schools that can afford separate meeting spaces).
What if, instead, we:
1) Held shorter meetings with a focus on real communication, collaboration and issues in spaces where what we love about teaching and learning is close by rather than far away?
(More on the benefits of this in another post)
2) Set aside one or more meeting spaces for synchronous and asynchronous problem-solving and creative thinking?
What if we had a place where teachers, administrators (students? parents? custodial staff?) could go to work on identifying challenges and trying to solve them - somewhat like this online collaboration space? This would not be a re-purposed faculty lounge - teachers need those for different reasons. This would be a meeting room space, an office - or even a small room created from another, bigger room.
The room could have whiteboards, a few computers, some bulletin boards, paper and markers and interested school participants could choose specific challenges and specific ways to work through them? These 'labs' could generate ideas and innovate and creative strategies. Participants could come in for their lunch break and work together or just come in for a minute and read the topic for the month and add a few words.
The different phases that The Teachers Guild has identified could be used as the phases for innovation in the former meeting spaces. If teachers are inspired at home or in the classroom, they can email or tweet it to a site - where others can read on the desktops. The space(s) could accommodate groups, individuals, at the same time and/or at different times.
Sometimes we need to provide spaces for people to go and let things happen. We need to make sure that if we try something like this, we give it time to work - as at the beginning, I think people will be too nervous and/or busy to think about it.