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: