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The Teachers Lounge: Den of Iniquity or Source of Support? This teacher's experience might surprise you!
by Pat Hensley
March 1, 2008
Many times as a young teacher I have been told not to go to the Teacher’s Lounge. Older, more experienced teachers warned me away from the Teacher’s Lounge as if it was the den of iniquity but I think that was so wrong. For many months I followed their advice until I realized that I had no way to connect with my colleagues and nowhere to go for the much needed support that new teachers need. The experienced teachers should have told me not to engage in gossip and negative talk and encouraged me to visit the Teacher’s Lounge as much as possible because a lot can be gained from going there. I needed to know how to recognize gossip and negative talk and how to handle it rather than just avoid it. I needed to know that it would have been best for me just to remove myself from the situation whenever this occurred.
As I think back on all of the things I learned from going to the Teacher’s Lounge, it actually brings back a lot of good memories. It was a place that teachers could share worries, concerns, and successes. Sometimes it was hard to share my stories at home because it is one of those things where “you had to be there” to really understand. There were times I just had to vent and get it out of my system and didn’t really want someone to give me solutions. It was enough that I had others who would just listen to me. Other times I would come in with a problem and ask for help. Suddenly the room would be filled with brainstorming ideas and lots of humor. The humor would usually take the sting of the problem away so that I could actually concentrate on the problem. Due to the brainstorming, I was able to see the answers from different perspectives and actually think outside the box in order to arrive at a workable solution. The best times were when I could share my successes with other teachers who would celebrate with me and at that time, I felt so proud to be a teacher!
My last school did not have a teacher’s lounge so a few teachers would meet in my classroom to eat lunch every day. My room was the pseudo-teacher’s lounge during lunch. I really needed that time to decompress from being a teacher, just for a little while. There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty for feeling this way. Too many times I have seen teachers work right through their lunchtime because they think it makes them look like a better teacher. In fact, I think it says the opposite because I think being around colleagues and sharing ideas and thoughts are vital to our profession and keeps us from getting burned out.
I also had a get together on the last Friday of every month (It was even called “Let’s Celebrate the Last Friday of the Month!”) in my room for everyone who had 7th period planning with me. I asked them to bring a snack to share and just come to my room to relax. Since I was lucky enough to be in the old home economics room, I had access to a kitchen so was able to offer hot tea to everyone. I usually had a big group of teachers from all different subjects, levels of experience, and ages who joined me and we had a great time! There was a great exchange of ideas about activities and strategies that worked in the classroom as well as sharing problems and trying to work out solutions.
I think there are more positives than negatives to the teacher’s lounge and this collegiality should be encouraged. Here are some positives but I’m sure there are many others out there that I haven’t mentioned.
You can be inspired by new ideas.
You get to know other teachers to add to your support system.
You can bounce new ideas off of others.
You can ask more experienced teachers some questions.
Procedural questions and confusions can be cleared up.
You can laugh to relieve stress.
You can feel like part of the “team” which relieves stress.
You can learn what other teachers are doing in their classrooms and adapt it to yours.
You can get discipline ideas for your classroom.
You can share your personal life with others.
You can share dreams and ambitions with others.
You can learn new crafts and hobbies from others.
You can brainstorm solutions to problems.
You have place of refuge when you need to get away.
You can share successes with others who really understand how wonderful these successes are!
Sure, there could be some negative things about the teacher’s lounge but I think that is true about workplace gathering spots in any profession. You just need to make sure that you don’t engage in the gossip and negative thoughts and know how to handle the negative situation when it occurs. The good reasons definitely outweigh the bad ones to me so I encourage you to visit the teacher’s lounge!
Pat Hensley has taught for 26 years and is a Nationally Board Certified Exceptional Needs Specialist. She serves on the National Board of Directors for the Council for Exceptional Children. Pat was selected as 2006 Teacher of the Year for her school and was a top 10 finalist out of 5000 teachers in her district. She likes to hike, read, crochet, teach, and do digital scrapbooking.
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