I walked into my school’s teachers’ lounge for the first time this year yesterday. Now that my students all have tablet computers I don’t make copies anymore and I don’t have to run off scantrons so I have no particular reason to venture across my school’s campus to the teacher’s lounge. What I encountered in the teachers’ lounge was like something out of horror movie. What had previously been a somewhat pleasant room painted a cheery yellow with a couple of uncomfortable couches, had been turned into a storage room for old textbooks, broken desks and in the absence of any other life forms an ant colony had taken over. I dared to venture into the bathroom and found no toilet paper, soap or paper towels. This is par for the course in your average student bathroom but this was the teachers’ lounge. In past years, you could usually count on your fellow teachers to provide at least some air fresheners, hand soap, and occasionally some soft ply toilet paper instead of the sand paper grade public school quality that disintegrates mid-wipe.
Ten years ago when I first started my teaching career at my school, teachers actually hung out in the teachers’ lounge. Of course the concept of a teachers’ lounge is a little ridiculous since teachers do not exactly have any time to “lounge” around during the school day and sitting in the room with copy machine fumes and the endless cacophony of underachieving student scantrons being run off in the background, it was never a place where one would chose to spend much time. Maybe because I didn’t have my own classroom my first year teaching, I did eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge every day. There was a whole group of us that would eat lunch, tell dirty jokes, and celebrate each other’s birthdays. For twenty minutes every day teachers could get what they otherwise never have- adult contact. The isolation of the teaching profession is one of the worst aspects of the job. You may pop your head in the teacher’s classroom next door for a few seconds between classes but mostly you are in your room, the only adult in a sea of adolescent angst.
I’m not sure why, when or how our teacher’s lounge began to resemble a tenement housing slum from the early days of the Industrial Revolution. It was a slow decline. Maybe because we got a new building where teachers had to walk down three flights of stairs in order to get to the teacher’s lounge? Security guards took over for a while. You would often find one of them asleep on the uncomfortable couches or watching Jerry Springer during their breaks. Maybe that’s why the couches with scratchy upholstery disappeared. When the couches disappeared, so did the security guards. Now that the security guards have also ceased to use the teacher’s lounge, it has basically become a dumping ground. Perhaps the condition of my school’s teacher lounge can be taken as a metaphor for the teaching profession in general.
What are teacher lounges in your school like? What do you do to combat the isolation of our profession? Leave a comment below.