I want to take a moment to discuss the teachers’ lounge. Yes, it is one of the few places where you get to socialize with other teachers and where you can get a little private space away from the schoolchildren. It can be a pleasant place to retreat for a quiet lunch or a chat with another friendly teacher over a cup of tea.
You can learn a lot about the inner life of the school and the unique school culture from the chitchat in the teachers’ lounge. You may also acquire important information about resources, situations, events, and the people you work with. You may even get some real mentorship and help from other teachers.
On the other hand, nothing can be more depressing for a new teacher than to listen to veteran teachers who hang out in the lounge and complain. All too often, you hear complaints about the building, the district policies, or the incompetence of a fellow teacher or administrator. “Office politics” can be dangerous if you find yourself on the wrong side.
I would recommend that the new teacher stay clear of the teachers’ lounge in the early days.
Why? Because going there can undermine your confidence. Wait until you feel proficient enough in your teaching duties to hold your own. Go there when you need help but give yourself time to build confidence in your own abilities. You do not want to be vulnerable or negatively influenced by more experienced – and perhaps more cynical – teachers.
I have been in the teaching business for 20 years and I can count the times on one hand that I have frequented the lounge. School environments and cultures differ all over the world, but the teachers’ lounges do tend to be a ‘hotbed’ for internal politics and venting of frustrations.
My intent is not to scare you away from the lounge – after all, it can be a place to relax and not every teacher complains. However, I think initially your time would be better spent — and much more productive — inside your classroom, preparing lessons and procuring the resources you need to teach your children.
Let me ask you something. When you go into the office of a doctor, a dentist, or a lawyer, what do you normally see hanging on the wall? Why, it is a diploma (or several), of course!
I often hear teachers complain that they are not treated like professionals. More often than not, these are the same individuals whining about building policies or gossiping about other people. Typically, they duck responsibility, parade around in jeans daily, and do not have their teaching credentials posted.
Please hear me out. I am not suggesting that simply because you do not have your teaching diploma(s) on the wall of your classroom or office that you are not a professional. But rather, as a professional, you should want your students and their parents to see your credentials. It is not about ego but about being a member of an honorable profession.