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Teachers’ Lounges: Valuable or Wasted Space?

By Joy Jameson
Teachers’ Lounges: Valuable or Wasted Space?

In recent years, it seems that teachers’ lounges are disappearing in both international and U.S. schools. It leads one to wonder as to whether they are really valuable areas or wasted space. Have teachers’ lounges outlived their day? If so, what factors may be responsible for this change?
Teachers’ lounges have always served as a place for teachers to eat lunch and/or take short breaks in addition to serving as workrooms for preparing materials for classes. Traditionally, the teachers’ lounge has been a place for informal sharing of ideas, team building, and perhaps fraternizing with staff members with whom one usually doesn’t have contact during the teaching day. Often they are also an early-morning meeting place, filled with laughter and fun to give everyone a happy start to their day.
Why are they disappearing, then? Perhaps the age of technology is one of the factors responsible for the extinction of teachers’ lounges. With computers in every classroom and teachers with iPads and cell phones, there is no need for teachers’ lounges with computers and a phone. Also, schools are now much more ecologically friendly, making staff mailboxes obsolete, since all school correspondence is usually sent out electronically.
In addition, with the current trend to keep teachers constantly busy with recess duties, meetings, curriculum/standards work, in addition to their full teaching loads, many teachers don’t even have time to eat lunch, much less go to the lounge for a short coffee break. Many teachers have to resort to eating lunch at their desks as they grade papers or plan lessons.
These days, some schools even schedule meetings in the teachers’ lounges or convert them into classrooms. Is this due to lack of space at the school or is it a strategy to discourage staff members from using the lounge? Do administrators realize that to be highly productive, teachers need short breaks in a non-classroom setting to recharge their batteries to better face the rigors of teaching and the often overwhelming demands related to accountability, standards, curriculum planning, and the like?
Therefore, Mr./Ms. Administrator, please think twice before you eliminate the teachers’ lounges at your school. Teachers are depending on you to supply them with more than books and supplies. The emotional and social needs of your teachers also need to be met to ensure that they stay healthy and in top form to meet the ever-growing challenges and demands of the profession. Otherwise, your school may find itself facing massive teacher burnout and frequent staff turnover.
In the future, instead of eliminating teachers’ lounges, perhaps through architectural magic these lounges can be redesigned or renovated to include sliding walls, for example, to make them multi-purpose, i.e. providing space for small meetings while maintaining their original purpose as a lounge/work room for teachers. In this way, the physical space requirements of the school can be met while also taking into consideration the needs of your teachers, thus, making your school a wonderful place to work.

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