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Let’s Reimagine The “Teacher Work Room”

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Ahh, the hum of fluorescent lighting in the teacher workspace. The slightly stained carpeting. The copier that is almost-if-not-already-out-of-paper. The dirty coffee cups. It’s no secret that at many schools, the common teacher workspace isn’t exactly inviting. No one really seems to be in charge of it, no resources really seem to be allocated toward it, and no one really has time to care. (If that isn’t the case at your school, AWESOME! And if that’s because of you, that’s so cool!)

But lately I can’t help but ask… what if? What if the community work space for educators had a tad more in common with those amazing co-working spaces I see on Pinterest? Or those cool start-up offices with bagels on the counter and ping pong tables that pop up on Netflix sitcoms? Or the legendary work campuses of tech companies like Google and Youtube?

What if teachers actually enjoyed working in the faculty room / teacher room / copy room at your school, because it was…. like…. NICE?

When I saw a Facebook question in Creative High School English the other day from an administrator asking how they could do something nice for teachers, my mind turned automatically to this space – I’m going to call it a faculty room from here on out.

Ever since reading Ali Abdaal’s book, Feel Good Productivity, in December, I’ve been leaning into my usual proclivity for creating pleasant environments, since apparently feeling good where you do your work really does make you more productive.

I really don’t think it would take much to overhaul many faculty rooms into a pleasant space that would help create community, make teachers feel more supported, and even inspire more innovative pedagogy. In today’s episode, I’m going to share a range of ideas – some of them free, some of them low cost, all of them mainly requiring someone who cares enough to ask for a small budget, gather a few colleagues to help, and get started.

(Someone like you.)

You can listen in to this episode below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

Teacher Workspace Makeover: The Walls

Teacher workspace

First things first, let’s talk about the walls. I’ve learned a lot from Instagram and HGTV over the years about what an impact the walls make on any room, and I’m guessing the walls of your teacher workroom are sort of a whitish beige or maybe a beigish white. I’d like to suggest three possibilities that will make a huge difference.

Perhaps the easiest improvement would be to purchase a wall sticker or sticker wallpaper. Etsy is positively overflowing with options. For example, this mountain sticker, bookcase wallpaper, or these pastel art printables. But they are very much the tip of the iceberg.

Another option would be to pick up a can or two of paint and paint a colorful accent wall or a chalkboard or whiteboard wall.

Last, and most complex but oh-so-cool, you could put up a mural on one wall. Get together with your top art students and imagine something amazing, or see if one of your faculty members would like to paint something. Take a little time at a staff meeting to talk about images or quotations that would represent and inspire your community.

Teacher Workspace Makeover: The Resources

Teacher workspace

Ideally, the place where you go to make copies and grab Expo markers could also be a place where you get new ideas for teaching. Maybe you and your colleagues could bring in your favorite pedagogy books (with your names clearly labeled inside) and create a library where everyone could go for new ideas. Even better if you add those little post-its or index cards like at bookstores that say “Emily Jacobsen recommends What School Could Be because…”

Create an obvious checkout sheet on the wall next to your new book display so everyone knows where the books are and doesn’t get nervous about their favorite book disappearing.

Another great – totally free – option would be to put up posters featuring your favorite teacher podcasts. You can simply screenshot the cover of the podcast, copy and paste the description from your podcast player, and add a QR code that leads to either the main page or an episode you really liked. Then teachers passing by can get digital inspiration, finding new shows to listen to and maybe even talk about together. I made four to help you get started – grab your copy here.

Teacher Workspace Makeover: Pedagogy Posters

Teacher workspace

Is there a strategy you wish would spread at your school? If you don’t have time to wait til you can present about it, creating a poster for the faculty room is one great way to share it with others. Put down the basics and add a QR code leading to more information.

This could be a fun challenge to departments on a PD or department meeting day as well – inviting each department to make and contribute a poster with a teaching strategy that is working effectively in that department.

You can make your copy of the six posters featured above right here.

Grab some cheap frames at Ikea to help your posters pop or put them up on a clothesline with fun clips, so anyone can easily add more.

Teacher Workspace Makeover: Paint

Teacher workspace

OK, this one is really simple. But have you got an ancient table or bookcase in your faculty work room? Maybe a coffee table with more than a few coffee rings on it?

You know what I’m going to suggest… and it will make a big difference in the feel of the room!

Teacher Workspace Makeover: Work Areas

Teacher workspace

The other day I was reading my Magnolia magazine (yes, who is surprised that I am a big fan of Joanna Gaines’ work!). The article I flipped to was sharing the way the architect and designers of an old lodge created different spaces around the interior to promote small groups gathering.

I really like the idea of applying this to a faculty work room.

Could there be a counter with three stools? That’s a perfect place for a few teachers to brainstorm ideas for their literary food truck festival together.

Could there be a table with three or four assorted chairs? Lunchtime book club, check!

Could there be a couple of rolling chairs by a big whiteboard? Then we’ve got a brainstorming area!

Whether you’ve got budget for beanbags and a swing to hang from the ceiling, or just the motivation to create, think about how you can pull together areas for small groups of teachers to gather within the room. Add appropriate lighting if at all possible – lamps and twinkle lights will be ever so much more pleasant than the fluorescent buzz from above.

Once you’ve got the structure in place, extras like plants (which make a positive impact on our well-being), a wifi speaker, and cups of colorful pens and markers are a wonderful addition to making the workspaces feel inviting.

Teacher Workspace Makeover: Events

Teacher workspace

Now that you’ve got this inviting community space, what next?

Time to start letting people know it’s there for them and using it to build community connections.

You might start a Monday lunch book club (for a pedagogy book or just something fun you want to read!).

You could start a consistent “Smoothies and Grading” group during a prep period.

You could send out an email with a photo of the new books and a few top recommendations for people to borrow.

You could let department chairs know that the new space is available for small team meetings.

You could suggest ideas to your administration or parent boosters for how they might continue to refresh the space and keep it helpful to your teaching community.

Or…. (I’m sure you have many more ideas!).

That’s a Wrap on the Faculty WorkSpace

Honestly, I’m getting antsy feet over here in Bratislava, wishing I could get my hands on a few faculty rooms! I hope you’re feeling just as excited about the idea of a vibrant community space where you and your colleagues could enjoy working together.

Remember, it’s not about having a huge budget. A little paint, a community call for pedagogy books and plant cuttings, new posters, and some furniture restructuring can make a positive impact. But you don’t have to be afraid to ask for budget either – with something that affects every teacher at the school, your administration might be excited to have you spearheading positive change and want to support it financially.

I’d love to see what you do! Tag me on Instagram @nowsparkcreativity with your photos, or send me a DM to bounce ideas around!

hey there!

I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!

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