As a supervisor of Pre-service teachers, I start my first meeting with my students with a list of do’s and Don’ts, High up on the Don’t list is a very important rule for all new teachers: Stay out of the Faculty Lounge. Although it is a gathering place for educators, it is in reality not a place to professionally develop.
The teacher’s lounge or faculty room is one of the most important rooms in a school building for some teachers. It is an oasis from the stress, a place to blow off steam. Back in the day it was a smoke-filled room. (That is a great example of “what the hell were we thinking” items.) It is a social room for faculty. It is the virtual water cooler where those types of conversations take place. It is a place where teachers can voice opinions about education with colleagues. Some schools offer Department offices providing a mini-experience of the same things for department members only, an exclusive lounge.
Then there is the “Dark Side” of the lounge. It is a place for student bashing, teacher bashing, administrator bashing, and finally a place for parent bashing. It is a place where careers can be torpedoed by individuals publicly ridiculing colleagues. It is a place that can be very intimidating to new teachers. It is a bastion of traditional ideas and stories of those who got away with things that could not be done today.
The reality is that, it is not a place for Professional Development. It is not thought of as the place where one goes to discuss the latest methods or research in education. It is not thought of as the place where one would see the latest best practices in a lesson for professional development, or videos of the latest speakers on educational topics. Marzano, Kohn, November, Gardner, Rheingold, and Heidi Hayes Jacobs are not names bandied about in the Lounge. Most people are not listening to podcasts, or viewing webinars, or exchanging links. The discussion of which apps are best for which outcomes is a rare bird indeed. As a matter of fact, many of these terms, or at least the experience of use of these things would be foreign to many, if not most, in the room.
If you did not recognize this description, because your school has no such room, or nothing negative happens in your faculty lounge it can mean only one thing. After four decades of teaching, supervising, and observing in hundreds of schools, I never visited your school. I guess that I should only say that this is a description of a lounge in many schools I have visited. Of course the names will be withheld to protect the innocent.
If the exchange of educational ideas is not taking place in the areas where teachers gather, it must take place somewhere else. Perhaps the district is supplying a time and place for the exchange of ideas to happen. There is always the monthly or bi-weekly Department meeting that occurs at the end of the school day when teachers are always open to new challenging ideas.
If educators are to be relevant and literate in this digital age, these are the types of things that need to be discussed and planned for. If we as educators are not discussing this now, we will soon reach a point where it will not matter.
We are in an environment of people being fed up with status quo. We are in an environment where expenditures of money are demanding higher accountability. We are in an environment where people want more bang for less bucks, more effort from fewer people, more education with less time to do it, more testing for better outcomes with less time to teach, because of more time required for test preparation. No matter how fast that mouse runs there is always more of that spinning wheel.
As I discussed this with my friend, Dr. Joe Pisano, he pointed out that maybe the walls we need to knock down with technology are the walls of the Faculty Room and the Myth of educators exchanging ideas for Professional Development. The box that we need to think outside of is the school building itself. We need to involve educators to engage others on a global network of educators. We cannot count on Districts supplying the time and place for needed discussions to happen. They are not leading us to the needed reform to maintain our relevance and ultimately our jobs.
We need to share our digital collaborative efforts that have educators involved in Twitter, Ning, Delicious, Diigo, Wikis, and any of the web tools out there now or yet to come. We navigate an information-rich environment. We are collaborating daily. We are using Blog posts for reflection and deep discussions. As Educators on the Professional Learning Network we do all of this and benefit by it daily, yet we are a minority of educators. We represent the smallest of fractions of the Millions of teachers who still rely on the Teachers Lounge for relevant Professional Development.