the third rail

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Teachers Lounge ~ The Most Dangerous Place in School?

January 27, 2010 by seanwilliams · 4 Comments · teaching

I had the privilege of co presenting a session last weekend at annual OC CUE TechFest with my good friend Chris Bell.
Aside from the great presentations, learning, and networking, the keynote really struck a cord with me.

Mike Lawrence got me fired up about trying the Student Media Festival this year, and Mary Anne McGuire was inspiring with her story of Rock Our World (looking into Walk our World as well, the kids can multi-task right?) was also motivating to get out and try something new, do something different and exciting.

But what is still rattling around in my head is one thing Mary Anne McGuire said….

“The teachers lounge is where ideas die.”


I know this was not the intention of the key note. And it sounds a lot worse in isolation, she was telling the story of how excited she was when she first started her project. How she hesitated to share it with her colleagues in the staff lounge because so often that is where great ideas die.

Against better judgment, she did share it with her fellow teachers and got the expected response. Our story has a happy ending because she did not let them discourage her, she continued on her own and has had great success for her and her students.

But I completely identified with her at this point of her story. Too often the lounge is a place where you don’t share your ideas because, as long as they are just your ideas, they are alive but when you share them out so often they die a painful, albeit quick, death.

So what are the choices?

Don’t go to the lounge? That leaves you working in isolation and probably the rest of the staff thinking how anti social you are.

Go it alone and just don’t tell anybody about your ideas? This is what I have been trying to do for a while and it is not the most rewarding way to go, a teacher needs to share success and failures.

Share with only a few teachers that you can trust? Unfortunately, this leads to an “us against them” attitude all too often.

How do you keep your dreams and ideas alive and healthy?

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Chris Bell

    I think this is why Twitter and other social sites have become havens for educators. In those learning spaces, we have a place to bounce ideas, share resources, successes, failures, etc.

    Hopefully word of what you are doing in the classroom will reach the teacher’s lounge and you may have a receptive audience in the future. I have found that it’s often easier to get teachers to come along when they see that something has worked and they do not have to be trailblazers…

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  • Gregory Thomson

    I think the key is in the interpretation of the feedback.

    I’m come from the techie side, but work in K-12 – more on the student/business side than the educational side.

    But as a techie that is curious, I often come up with crazy ideas, and I sometimes share them with everybody I know so that I can get some feedback.

    What I’ve found is that some will like it, some won’t.

    Some of those that like it are my family, and they have a hard time criticizing me on a bad idea.

    Others that don’t like the idea, don’t like any change, so that’s to be expected.

    Those that like it before they even really know about it, are also questionable with regards to feedback.

    How you interpret their feedback is key, based on how you expect them to respond, I think.

    As an example…
    Disclaimer: I work in K-12, but also have an outside business, and this next part includes links to my outside business, if you’re okay with that, scroll on…

    I created this new site for my web app –
    - bright colors, kindof unstructured, and a little fun (I think).

    I asked everbody I know what they thought about the design.

    This wasn’t an formal study to be published anywhere…

    The further people were on the educational side, the more they liked it.
    The more they were on the technical side, the less they liked it.

    The educational people liked the bright colors and semi-unstructured aspect.
    The technical people didn’t like the bright colors, and wanted it more structured.

    That was a key piece for me in understanding that I need to understand the person, via Bakersfield shoes, before I can understand what they are actually telling me in their feedback.

    And sometimes negative feedback is not bad, depending on how you interpret it.


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