commentary reflection Tyson Seburn  

What’s a staff room to you?

My deskEssentials in my instructor room: a nice desk, a filing cabinet, a computer with internet connection, a printer, and other teachers.This is my desk at the university. Is it important for teachers to be altogether in one office? Does it make more sense to physically separate teachers of one program?  At what point does collaboration become hindered by the number of teachers working in one space? Should each teacher have their own desk or share one large table? Is it necessary to have a teacher room at all? Sometimes you take for granted that every school (no, every teacher) has the same concept of what makes a good working environment to plan, collaborate or relax in.  That’s clearly faulty thinking though. Not everyone shares the same values or preferences.

I think of my own experience in two different schools I’ve worked for: one had two instructor rooms, one with 8 teachers in it and a smaller, newer one with 4; and one with 1 instructor room where all 6 instructors shared the same workspace.  This simple infographic describes the basic advantages and disadvantages I see with either setup.

I can’t definitively make the call which is better, more efficient for all teachers’ needs or most desirable and I am willing to admit that different people have different working styles, so I can only suggest which I prefer.  What I do know is that the separated blue rooms impede the strong sense of community among teachers and reduce the amount of potential collaboration among the people in that community, just by proximity alone.  It potentially disconnects half the group from the other half, if equally divided in the first place.  That said, if the number of teachers employed surpasses the fulcrum number of crowding, the meaning of these statements becomes converse.

This is my quasi office at home.


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27 thoughts on “What’s a staff room to you?

  1. Baiba Svenca (@baibbb)

    What’s an instructor room to you? via @seburnt Easy to answer – I don’t have my own office 🙂

  2. Lucy Bodeman (@lu_bodeman)

    Ours is shared which is good, but I miss the silence s’times. >> RT @seburnt: What’s an instructor room to you?

  3. Baiba

    Hi Tyson,

    I wish I had an office which I could share with a few colleagues of my subject – EFL. But we have a staff room which is too large for my liking, too crowded and sometimes too permeated by negative energy.
    My office is at home and it looks almost the same as yours except there is a PC on the desk :-))

    1. seburnt

      Every school or department of a school I’ve worked for has only had language teachers in it, so I’ve never been faced with a situation where there were other program teachers together with me. I’m not sure what it would be like to have this in a gigantic room.

  4. Naomi Epstein

    Till now (or till about two years from now) your question would be one I could barely relate to.
    I work at a very large high-school with more than 140 teachers. There is one very large staff room. Two computers. You can get some work done there if you have a free period as if even ten other teachers are there it isn’t crowded. The general expectation is you do your work at home. When you don’t teach you aren’t at school unless there are staff meetings.

    A new agreement has been signed that high-school teachers will work a 40 hour work week and will do their preparation / grading work in school. Part of the hours are for that (not 40 hours of teaching!). Everyone is wondering how there will be work stations for us all, especially as most teachers use the computer.
    I’m lucky, I have my own classroom. I can always hang out there!

    1. seburnt

      How can this room house that many teachers? Take a pic! Two computers? Insanely few. We had to bring in our own laptops last year in order to work at the university in our room, but because we’ve complained enough, apparently the program is purchasing us all laptops. Such a relief!

      I don’t think I’d want to hang out in my classroom by myself. I’m much more interested in involving myself in the collaboration with other teachers in an instructor room.

      1. Naomi Epstein

        So funny you should bring up the issue of staff room now! I went to school this morning (we work on Sundays, remember?) and they were installing a third computer, but IN BETWEEN the other two, with just enough room to put in a chair.
        these computers are mainly used as stations for typing online grades and attendance and for relaxing while surfing. Not for writing tests or worksheets.
        Being in the teachers room is important for personal networking (and also eating and drinking!)but not the place to be if you really need to get something done. Constant traffic.
        My guess is when the new program is implemented they will give us free access to the computer rooms where computer science is taught. No wifi at school.

        1. seburnt

          Really those computers function as terminals then, not work stations. It just doesn’t seem common to have an ideal staff room for us anywhere.

  5. Baiba

    In case you want to redecorate your office, look here for inspiration

    1. seburnt

      Hmm. None of them (except maybe the New York offices) hold a candle to the layout and windows of my home office as it is. They mostly look like just someone’s room.

  6. Vicky Loras

    Hi Tyson!

    Another super post! I think a combination of alone time and time with other teachers would be ideal. I love a staffroom which is full of enthusiastic teachers talking and sharing ideas. This was how it was in the school my sisters and I had in Greece. We absolutely loved hanging out with our thirteen teachers (most of the times not all at once, but even so, it was always great!).

    I would like to have my own office here but it is a bit difficult for now. We have a great staffroom at the college where I will start teaching this year, part-time for now. It is big, with big bookcases full of awesome books, work stations with computers, two big photocopiers – yeah, I can imagine myself spending a lot of nerdy time in there! I love it already.

    My apartment is also difficult to accommodate an office in, as it is only 20 (!) square meters so the only room there is, is my bedroom, living room, dining room and office! If I ever move to another bigger house, I would love to have a room as an office there, where all my teacher friends can come and we can geek out all together!

    Tyson, thanks for a super post!

    1. seburnt

      Yes, in my ideal world, I’d have one big instructor room with no more than 10 people together at any one time. We’d each have our own ample desk space for writing and a computer. We’d have a meeting table in the middle of the room to come together for collaborative planning. There would be the resources nearby and a photocopier outside in the hallway.

  7. Cecilia Lemos

    Hi Ty,

    I think having one staff room with everyone is better. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages in my humble opinion. I never had very small staff rooms I’m afraid, so maybe I am not the best person to talk about this.


    Currently I work at a school with over 60 teachers. Over 50 of us share the same staff room – though not all at the same time. We do however have 30 using it at times, and I like it. I like the energy, the chattering, the sharing…the jokes and laughter as well.

    That’s when we hear things, we hear OF things… whenever I need more focus I put on my headphones and let the music isolate me. So it works great to me!

    1. seburnt

      I can’t imagine a room so large as to accomodate that number of instructors! Is there enough desk space for each teacher to have their own or do you have to share?

      One argument a colleague of mine brought up as a negative about this type of room was the noise and chatter. Although I can get caught up in it myself and as a result accomplish very little, I understand that sometimes you just want peace and quiet too. I’m not sure headphones would be a great solution for this for everyone, myself included as I hate wearing them when I’m not listening to music.

      1. Cecilia Lemos

        No, we don’t each have our own space. There are 9 or 10 PCs on a big board-type of thing that goes all around the room. It is a pretty big room. There are lockers for everybody, pigeon holes for mails and small things, space under the computers’ counter for materials, walls covered in shelves, a special mini-library for the teachers (just ELT related books with a few hundred books), a couple of sofas and 4 round tables with chairs around – that where we usually work. Each teacher also has a cabinet in the class he/she teaches the most to keep the teaching material.

        Many teachers bring their laptops/netbooks to work, and we have wi-fi, so that works…

        During class times we have 4-5 teachers in the teachers room at the same time the most. So that works. It’s at break (15 mins) that we’re all there.

        And btw, when I put my headphones on, I have music on….. loud 😉

        1. seburnt

          I had a shared space with lockers and sofas when I taught in Korea. Everyone just sat at the common table wherever they wanted to work and then went to the computers to type and print things. I’m not sure if that or my own space is better in the end. On a possessive level, I prefer having my own desk that no one else uses, scorpio that I am.

  8. […] Seburnt’s interesting post “What’s a Staff Room to You?” made me realize that there are other kinds of staff rooms, reflecting a whole different approach to […]

  9. John B Whipple (@whippler)

    I think our staff room is just too darn small. No tweeps either.

    1. seburnt

      Ya, my staffroom is unfortunately void of tweeps too, though I do believe I’m starting to get through to one… 😉

      Where do you work?

  10. Miguel Mendoza

    In our school at the uni, teachers don’t have an office. There’s not a staff room either…There are a very few spaces some teachers have won over time and they religiously sit there to work on a computer, correct, tally scores or even plan meetings with students…I think having a room or office for teachers give some sense of belonging… You spend more time at the uni correcting, talking to students or planning meetings with colleagues…or why not having an informal chat with them…I generally go to an empty classroom for holding meetings with students and visitors….or make use of electronic or mobile technology where my students and colleagues will surely find me /contact me (Facebook, Twitter, cell phone)…There are lucky people in the faculty who have got their very own office, though…!

    1. seburnt

      It’s a sad state of affairs when there’s no office whatsoever for the teachers of a program. I mean really, how does a university especially expect teachers to do their jobs efficiently without at least a desk? Sad.

      1. Miguel Mendoza

        Totally agree…Some of us try to do our job at least to the best of our abilities & resources available…as I wrote before some other teachers have a different situation in other faculties in the very same university. Luck is not on our side in this school:/

        1. seburnt

          In Canada at least, I tend to find that language teachers usually get the worst of conditions in terms of pay, security and resources. But by comparison to language teachers in other countries, we shouldn’t complain that much.

          1. Miguel Mendoza

            I think teachers have got the worst salary & working conditions in our country (pretty sure worst than in Canada and maybe even Colombia to say the least)…The teachers from the university I work for ,according to the dictator disguised as an elected official , are counter-revolutionaries and/or dissidents (If that’s so happy to be one BTW)…so there’s not a fair budget to even think about providing teachers with offices and/or staff rooms…quite different situation for teachers working for universities created by this government.

          2. seburnt

            I’m sorry to hear of your conditions, Miguel. It’s sad when government doesn’t back education in all its forms. Here, university positions are the most coveted in our industry. They do tend to be the best paid and with the best resources. Of course, they’re often still below that of other university professors.

  11. Louise

    Interesting – I could take a photo of my workspace at Uni and at home but nothing too interesting there (except perhaps that at home it’s in the kitchen next to the back door – so I see and hear everything!). But more interesting is how the (secondary) schools here are set up (makes me realise how privileged most Dutch teachers are): the schools tend to have large staffrooms with plenty of comfy chairs and also a separate (quiet) room with lots of computers for preparation/inputting grades. The rooms are never big enough (schools of 1900 pupils are fairly normal so staff size is also huge)but they’re generally well-equipped. Is this really a luxury or fairly normal?

    1. seburnt

      I think your situation is really very lucky. Private language schools here tend to have teachers’ rooms with varying degrees of comfort and space, and full-time contract teachers at high school and university have better situations too, but there are plenty of situations where teachers have very little. I’m lucky myself, but I live in Canada and have certain expectations (or requirements). If I lived in a poorer country, I may just accept the lack of.

      I do always, in most situations, have the feeling that everything Dutch is of high standards.

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