Have you heard of the term “Teachers’ Common Room”?
Growing up in Singapore, we vaguely remember the term “Common Room” being used to describe the teachers’ office in school. This is a usually a big room, without partitions. Each teacher is assigned a desk and we as students were not allowed into the room without permission (as kids, we always thought it was because there are loose answer sheets for the next major exam lying on the teachers’ desks).
Later on, we found that the teachers desks are replaced by individual workstations separated by partitions, much like a regular office, although it is still a common space where teachers spent most of their time outside their classrooms.
When we came to the US, we were surprised to find that not all schools have such a staff room, or there is one but not as utilized by teachers.
A lot of great learning and support took place in these “Common Rooms”, for teachers that is. Rapport and camaraderie is developed amongst teachers through both formal meetings and informal daily interaction, both professional and social.
These relationships creates a supportive environment that lead to better teaching in the classrooms. If there is a concept you’re not sure of, clarification is just a desk away. Teachers help one another with lesson plans, materials preparation, test questions, and even classroom management.
Groups of teachers teaching the same topic each week also facilitate resource sharing and logistics coordination. “Oh, you’re making copies of this week’s worksheets for your class? Can you please make 40 more copies for me?”
The synergy created out of these shared experience allows teachers to continually grow as educators, departments to coordinate their curriculums and for more experienced teachers to pass on their knowledge to younger teachers.
So, at the end of the day, the “Common Room” is a common space where the minds meet and relationships form, where every teacher in the school working towards the common goal of being better educators for the kids hang out, help each other and get better in the process.