Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Do you enjoy going to the teachers' lounge (T.L.) or is it a place you try to avoid at all costs? I asked many of you this very question in a survey on my blog a few weeks ago. I was surprised to see that most people have strong feelings one way or the other! Take a look at these results from the 55 people surveyed (please note that I rounded to the nearest whole number so percentages may not add up to exactly 100):
1. How many times a week do you visit the T.L.? 0-2 times/try to avoid it at all costs = 35% 3-5 times = 25% 5+ times = 40% Note that several of those that visit 3-5 times also had negative feelings about it.
2. Reasons for not going to the T.L. No Time = 47% Negative Talk = 23% Unclean (catch all for junk) = 6% Teacher Cliques = 6% Poor Location, Set-Up or Size = 16% Used for Meetings by Others = 3%
3. Main Reason to go to the T.L. Socialize with Collegues = 46% Get Mail = 8% Break from Classroom/Students & Quiet = 14% To Eat Lunch = 33%
As I was reading through these surveys it was clear that most teachers have a love it or hate it attitude when it comes to the teachers' lounge. In fact, most of the surveys mentioned some negative feelings towards the teachers' lounge while only a handful had only positive things to say about it. In those surveys the teachers mentioned how well they got along with their co-workers and enjoyed spending time with them. It seems that those who were most satisfied with their teachers' lounge had a genuine care and respect for both their colleagues and their students.
Although I did not ask specifically, a few of those surveyed that had negative feelings about the teachers' lounge mentioned that they were first year teachers. One person stated, "I am a first year teacher and was counseled by others not to eat there, but chastised by my principal to do so. :( " Another said, "Sometimes my coworkers are overwhelmingly negative... as a new teacher, it's hard to know what I really need to be worried about, versus what they're moaning about that is a silly waste of time." Did you know that some colleges are even advising their education students to stay clear of
the teachers' lounge? I find this to be extremely sad!
On the flip side, some of those with positive feelings toward the T.L. said, "I love collaborating with my colleagues in the lounge. We come up with our best ideas and solutions over lunch!!" and another said, "There is nothing to dislike. I have great co-workers that eat lunch in there at the same time. It is a great place to get a "break" from the students and have fun adult conversation." So how can you ensure that your teachers' lounge is a positive place to be? Here are 8 simple ways to get you started!
A teacher’s lounge should not just be a work space! Sure teachers are at school to work but like in any company if you want the best out of your employees they need to have a positive work environment and need to feel appreciated! When setting up your teacher’s lounge keep in mind that you want it to be an inviting place. A table and chairs is a must for gathering together to eat and/or meet but it is also nice to have a couch or two. Plants and positive message posters (like this one) are a great way to create an inviting space where teachers’ feel welcome and appreciated. Make sure to keep the teachers’ lounge clean! Each Friday our teachers took turns cleaning (picking up papers, washing the table, vacuuming and cleaning out the refrigerator) the teachers’ lounge. This was a great way for us to take ownership and pride in our T.L.. Therefore, my first tip for creating a positive environment in the T.L. is to keep it clean and inviting!
Eating together helps build community. It gives teachers the opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed format. Eating lunch together is great; but let's face it, this may not be feasible for every teacher every day! Some teachers may have students in during lunch to re-take a test or have to attend a meeting over their lunch period. Instead of feeling pressured to make it to the T.L. for lunch every day, try having one special time a week where all the teachers are invited to eat together. At my school this special time was on Friday mornings. Our teachers would take turns bringing in a special (homemade) treat to share. We had an extended morning recess (30 min) on Fridays so the teachers could spend some time together. Occasionally we would get parent volunteers to do recess duty so that ALL teachers could participate.
While sometimes it is not feasible to go to the T.L. as mentioned above, don't try to avoid it either! Building community amongst co-workers doesn't just happen. You need to be intentional about it! Principals, requiring your teachers to spend every break in the T.L. or they are not considered "team players" (as some stated) is unreasonable. However, I do think that there is some merit to strongly encouraging teachers to make it a priority to at least try to make it to the T.L. at some point throughout the week (perhaps at the special Friday morning get-together as mentioned in #7).
...when you can! Okay, I'll admit this one is hard to do and like I said before it may not always be feasible! However, if your nose is always buried in paperwork you may give off the wrong message that you do not want to spend time getting to know your co-workers. With that said, it is also important to be understanding of others' work load. We all know that a teacher's work is never done and some may not want to stay up until midnight every night grading papers...which leads me to #4!
Another great way to build community and a positive atmosphere in the T.L. is by offering to help one another. Often times at our school the kindergarten teacher would come into the teachers' lounge with a project she was working on and everyone would chip in to help her out. We'd all grab a scissors and start cutting out little pieces for a craft or laminated cards. Other times we would help the secretary assemble newsletters or other papers to go home with the students. It was fun to get to work together while helping each other out. It was also an easy way for us to show that we cared and appreciated all the work they were doing to support their students.
Sometimes teachers feel the need to vent to other teachers who can relate to what they are going through. If you find yourself in this situation, try to steer the conversation to constructive feedback and problem-solving. Teachers can get a great deal of wisdom from other teachers on how to deal with certain situations in the classroom but too often the conversation turns negative and does more damage than good. This is one of the biggest turn-offs and deterrents for why some prefer to avoid the teachers’ lounge at all costs. In order to have a positive atmosphere in the T.L. you must leave the negative talk behind!
Everyone can benefit from a little encouragement every now and then! In fact, several studies (like this one) have shown that verbal encouragement significantly increases performance and/or effort. Encouragement also seems to be contagious, or at least it has been in my experience! I remember one teacher who would always encourage others. Not only would she verbally encourage others but she would also leave notes of encouragement in teachers' mailboxes throughout the year. This behavior would inspire others to do the same. Why not make a conscious effort to be an encourager at your school? You may just be surprised at who your positive attitude rubs off on :)
Have you heard the phrase, “Those who pray together, stay together” when referring to marriages? Well this can also apply to friends and colleagues! Sure you may not always stay together in the physical sense as people move away, get different jobs, and so on but you can stay together in the sense that you have a lasting care and respect for one another. Even if you are at a public school you can still show concern for your colleagues! If you can't pray with them you can still pray for them. You could ask them if there is something that they’d like you to pray for them or just be intentional about asking them how they are doing. I had the privilege of teaching at a Christian school where we were allowed to pray together. It was definitely a huge blessing and is by far the number one way to cultivate a positive atmosphere in the teachers' lounge!
Developing a positive atmosphere in the T.L. starts with you! Ask yourself, what can I do to ensure a positive atmosphere in the T.L.? Whether you offer to clean, bring in a snack or write notes of encouragement to colleagues, start today! Your efforts will not go unnoticed and may even spark a chain reaction! I hope you found these tips to be helpful! If you have other suggestions for developing a positive atmosphere in the T.L. I'd love to hear about them! Please leave your ideas in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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