In many schools these days, the one lament teachers of a certain vintage have is the loss of a staff room. A place where you can congregate, relax, drink coffee and shout and swear loudly about little Faizal from class 7E who has just annoyed you intensely.
How people act in staff rooms gives you a perspective of their real personality. There is always one teacher who does not allow anyone to sit in their favourite chair, am I right?
I made that mistake at my interview where I had nervously survived the morning and headed into the staff room ready for break time and an opportunity to speak to hopefully future colleagues. The bell went for break and the first teacher walked in, looked at me and gasped, followed by several more.
Now I ‘m not one to get too self-conscious but what had I done? Were my flies undone? Was I wearing a suit on mufti day?
Every worst nightmare dream that every teacher has ever had was going through my mind. Then an old furrowed Maths teacher walked in, who had seen it all and wasn’t ready to give up his favourite chair to a young upstart. “YOU BOY” he bellowed across the room.
Needless to say, it did the job as I moved pretty promptly after that!
Of course, a staff room is just like any other staff room, a bit grubby in places and a hiding place for every living bacteria known to humans. Some staff rooms still have that last bastion of a luxury of someone serving tea, but like most, we have to make do with the last chipped mug from the dishwasher.
In the corner, you’d often see grown-ups swapping football stickers or sharing stories of their weekend's activities. It would be the place where the initial spark of staff romance would ignite or where the awkward silence of staff breakups would fester in the full glare of colleagues.
Staff rooms are where you plot revolutions against the latest pointless SLT initiative, staff huddling in dark corners wearing cloth capes and red handkerchiefs. Cake day is always a treat, provided either for someone’s birthday, an over-keen parent or a generous headteacher, aware that they had annoyed you.
Without question, cake day becomes the day you see staff you haven’t seen for weeks but are loitering ready to secure the coveted cream doughnuts.
It is the carefree nature of the staff room which separates it from everything else and gives a sense of perspective as you get ready to face ‘the enemy’ once more.
And yet in schools across the UK, they are now empty, devoid of life, laughter and stories, cut down in their prime due to schools wanting to make every piece of space available for use. Either that or it's teacher’s staying in faculties, blissfully unaware of any other subject’s existence in the school.
But the staffroom plays such a crucial role in staff wellbeing, allowing teachers to be normal amongst a tsunami of pressure and deadlines. It's here that I'll end with a short but important note of advice: it's about time we cherished our staffrooms again.
About our Community Expert
Career Development Lead
Richard is a history Teacher by Training and for the last few years been head of sixth form. His specialism is leadership and career development in the classroom.