Reinvent The Teacher's Lounge!

What if every school had a GREAT place on campus for teachers to collaborate, learn, socialize, focus and rejuvenate?

Photo of Trevor Croghan
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Many teacher's lounges I've visited or used over the years have been pretty sad places.  They contain an assortment of random items that have been donated or collected over time.  They are rarely used for any sort of professional activity.  These spaces send a strong message to teachers on several levels, most of them negative.  One teacher I recently met with referred to the "smallpox couch" in the teacher's lounge that everyone on staff avoids at all costs.  Have you ever been in a space like this?  I hope not, but suspect you have as they are prevalent on school campuses everywhere. 

We have high expectations of teachers as professionals, yet we generally don't provide places for teachers to collaborate with each other in a radical and positive way.  As a result, professional educators often spend a lot of time in their classrooms by themselves, or collaborating with others in spaces that get in the way of dynamic engagements.  

What if we created a space on every campus specifically designed to send the right message to teachers and encourage radical collaboration?  If we did, I think a few things might happen:

1.  If there was a great place on campus that contained the right tools for collaboration, it might attract teachers like a magnet and connect professionals to each other.  We know that innovation happens when people come together to share and build upon each other's ideas.  

2. Providing a great space like this outside of the classroom might encourage teachers to rethink the teaching space in their classrooms.  A reduction of size in dedicated space and storage for teachers could create opportunities for more active and flexible learning spaces.

3. Designing AWESOME collaboration spaces for teachers would send the message that they are valued professionals.  It would be a source of pride on campus.  It would let them know that their school or district has invested in their success.  It might make them feel like the rock stars they are!

4. Teachers also need spaces where they can focus and rejuvenate.  It is often very had to do that in their classroom.  These spaces would support collaboration and group sessions well, but could also have spaces for focus, concentration and rejuvenation.  Thoughtfully designed space can be flexible enough to support multiple work modes.

**Side note: The 5 primary work modes identified in the research noted at the bottom of this post are: collaborating, focusing, socializing, learning and rejuvenating**

5. There should be a place on campus for teachers to build social capital and celebrate success together!  A space like this could support social activities for teachers, an important component in building a cohesive team.  These spaces could also have a component that allows for sharing of projects or ideas that might inspire others on campus - sort of a rotating gallery of killer projects/ideas.  

Interested to hear thoughts from the TG community on this idea.  Please build on it and make it better!  

Here's some research that inspired this idea:

Evaluation results

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Team (8)

Chris's profile
Trevor's profile
Elsa's profile
Elsa Fridman Randolph

Role added on team:

"Elsa - Saw your comments on a similar post from my colleague, Chris Good. Thought you might like to join us on a team to build on this idea!"

Margaret's profile
Paul's profile
Paul Kim

Role added on team:

"Paul - Saw your comments on a similar post from my colleague, Chris Good. Thought you might like to join us on a team to build on this idea!"

Jen's profile
Jen Ortlinghaus

Role added on team:

"Jen - Saw your comments on a similar post from my colleague, Chris Good. Thought you might like to join us on a team to build on this idea!"

Mark's profile
Ashley's profile


Join the conversation:

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV

This idea has really stuck with me, Trevor. Thanks for sharing it. 

Photo of Mark Carlucci

Trevor Croghan this really made me think about teacher space around my own school. Every departments have their own offices, separate from everyone else. This leads small niche groups to form discouraging collaboration. Discussions often happen in hallways or classrooms, places that don't encourage and excite. 

I don't know if other schools are like this, but I wonder if not only creating a space for teachers, but repurposing department offices to force teachers into a common work area would be beneficial. We get so wrapped up in our own personal areas, that forcing us together might just be the push needed to start getting everyone to be more progressive. We need to make it easier to work together than individually.

A space like this should be minimal on areas that people can make personal space in. Lots  of large tables and little room to hide your work. It should encourage an open culture, letting everyone see what your are working on and help you with it. It should be messy, with lots of resources to create and share ideas. Post-its, markers, large sheets of paper, white boards. It shouldn't be a luxurious place, with cushy couches and lounge chairs, just well equipped to inspire.

Looking at a rejuvenation space; this should be separate. Maybe one of those old office spaces, that tend to be smaller. Small, quiet and a little more luxurious. 

What do think of my suggestions?

Photo of Trevor Croghan

Really like your thoughts Mark Carlucci !  Love the idea of re-purposing existing spaces that are under-utilized and the idea of multiple spaces that serve different functions.  The thoughts on designing to encourage sharing of ideas are also right-on.  Forming a team to develop these ideas further.  Would love to have you if you are interested . . .

Photo of Mark Carlucci

I'm in Trevor Croghan . Over the past year I've been focusing on reimaging spaces, I'm am even themeing a course around redesigning the classroom/building an external collaborative classroom/workspace. I think trying to develop an idea like this would be awesome.

Photo of Trevor Croghan

Sweet Mark Carlucci!  Just invited you to join.

Photo of Trevor Croghan

Right on  Mark Carlucci ! I am actually attending an in-person collaboration at IDEO this morning. Hoping I will come away with some ideas as to how we might get started. I will be in touch.

Photo of John Faig

I second the notion of repurposed rooms. Teachers need mock classrooms to become comfortable with using new teaching approaches and technology. With these practice spaces, teachers will have more interesting discussions in the updated teacher lounges.

Photo of LEE BOYES

In 35 years I have only once worked in a school where the teachers had "lounges" rather than a "lunch room"
In that school, each department had a space where everyone met because there were no empty classrooms so at least once a day every member of the dept had to go to that space.  You could leave each other notes, meet informally between classes and at lunch AND we had a dept secretary to do copying or typing or now I suppose it would be maintaining a web site!  It did feel professional and as if there was a support staff as well as a  location to meet where students were not intrusive yet I did not feel as if I were "neglecting" my students as I feel now if I even leave the room for a moment between classes or at lunch.  We have a group of teachers who walk the track at lunch to talk!

Photo of Chris Good

Great post Trevor!
If you want teachers to feel like respected professionals - give them an work environment that supports that feeling.  - It is amazing how much your own personal desire to learn and grow can be impacted by simple things like your surrounding environment. Even subtle changes to your own self perception (and space can have a huge impact on that perception) can influence your desire to take on risk, try new things, and feel positive about change and personal development.

Photo of Catherine

Chris I so agree with your comment about treating teachers as professionals.  When I look at our teachers room it does not inspire.  It is a windowless room that is not that encouraging for professional discussion.  If anything, I believe that the dreary rooms encourage the negative talk that happens often in the teachers room.  This then encourages teachers to stay out of the teachers lounge. As the new year starts, this may be a way for many to renew how they look at their day -- even a vase of flowers could provide that brightness in the dark. 

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph

Hi Trevor, 

Thanks for adding me to the team! Definitely interested in seeing how we can push this idea further. Have you started a Google doc somewhere or does everything live here? I'd love to start thinking about what are the components and characteristics of a space that would foster and nurture the five work modes you identified: collaborating, focusing, socializing, learning and rejuvenating. Any thoughts? 

Photo of Erin Conrad

Amen!  We stagnate in dank, dull rooms with furniture from the 70s!

Photo of Ashley Haskins

I like your idea of 'investing in social capital' though redesigning collaboration space at school sites. I'd be interested in your team!

Photo of Trevor Croghan

Right on Ashley Haskins!  Adding you to the team now.

Photo of Margaret Powers

Great idea Trevor Croghan I ran a DT challenge at my school last year around HMW redesign our faculty room. We came up with some great ideas and build a lot of community involvement, now we're just looking for funds to make it happen. How would you fund the creation/renovation of these spaces? Do you see teachers being involved in the design/creation process? 

Photo of Trevor Croghan

Thanks for the thoughts @Margaret Powers.  In terms of funding, there are definitely grants available that might support something like this.  Here's a national one I'm aware of that will be awarded in early 2016: is another option. 

Finally, I'd recommend making a pitch to school or district leadership that an investment in a space like this could have an incredible return on investment on campus.  My team can help prepare you for a  conversation or presentation like that.

In regards to the question about teacher involvement in the process - ABSOLUTELY.  User-centered design would be critical to the success of a space like this. 

Photo of Trevor Croghan

Also invited you to join a team to further develop this idea if you are interested!