Many schools have stayed opened throughout the pandemic and their staffrooms have stayed open too.
But there are plenty of staffrooms that haven’t. These have been out of bounds because of COVID-19 transmission risk, distancing requirements and poor ventilation.
I dread to think how one school I worked at are coping.
The staffroom there was basically a large cupboard room that had been ‘converted’ into a staffroom. There were no windows and this meant is had zero ventilation and with over 50 staff to accommodate many staff just avoided it in winter as it was the one place you could guarantee catching a cold from someone else.
Staffrooms like this are not designed for hygge and well-being but even if they are bright and airy, staffrooms have not always been the best places to be in anyway.
Staffrooms have a real reputation for being toxic as there are cliques, egos and dominant personalities marking their territories, strutting around or making themselves heard or not…. there is always a whisper corner too.
In their book What Makes A Good School Now? Tim Brighouse and David Woods say that “You can gain a pretty strong clue to a school’s success by its staffroom.”
I think this is true. An Ofsted colleague I trained with said the same thing and he also said the same thing about the toilets and litter around the school.
But the staffroom is the place where some staff show their true colours. If there is bullying in the staffroom, then there will definitely be bullying between students.
As Brighouse and Woods say,
“Quite simply the staffroom conventions, even the walls, are a barometer of a school’s success. Conversations can be dominated either by backbiting or by debate about children’s progress. There can be social chatter with no cutting edge, or debates about interests that might inform the school’s progress. Walls can be the repository for the cynical cartoon or more positively the latest ‘thought-provoking piece’ about some educational matters.”
It will always been a question of space and resourcing but Brighouse and Woods make a thoroughly decent suggestion and that is in addition to a staffroom, there should be some provision for a social area for staff. This way the staffroom can be more of a professional development space.
This is just one of the four conditions staff need to be able to carry out their duties effectively:
2. Permitting circumstances
3. New experiences
4. Respect and recognition
Discussion about the staffroom falls into ‘permitting circumstances’ and link to the environment. If we don’t provide humans with food and warmth then they will not do well. If we don’t provide a staffroom space that focuses on wellbeing then don’t be surprised if staff are unhappy.
No staff should have to lock themselves away in their own classrooms because they fear the staffroom.
The post-lockdown staffroom should be a very interesting space to occupy and it should be an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and really focus on the welfare of all staff.
Some teachers have been self-isolating and hiding away for years because their staffrooms have been like a lion’s den or special member’s club.
Let’s hope that teachers don’t go back to self-isolating even when the staffroom door says ‘Open’ on it.