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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Interactive Display for Teacher Staff Lounge

The staff lounge can be a very negative place sometimes. While it's good for teachers and staff to have a safe place to vent and complain, it's also important for our own emotional well-being to share positive things as well, and that can be difficult to do when you pop in to have an adult conversation for the first time in 4 hours! This is a simple and effective way to help lift everyone's mood when they're having a tough day, and serve as a reminder of the good parts of our work.

As teachers we spend our whole day trying to maintain calm and positivity in the face of disrespectful parent emails, disruptive and rude student behaviors, and overwhelming work loads, so it's perfectly healthy and good to be able to vent and share our frustrations with colleagues who get it. The problem is that, especially with the very short length of time we usually spend in the staff lounge, it will often stop there and we never hear or share the positive things that happen, which can feed into the perception that there is more bad than good going on, which in turn can feed into an "us vs them" mentality, or just negative feelings about school in general.

While there are definitely plenty of aspects of teaching that need fixing, it has really been helpful for me to find ways to refocus on the positive, fun, happy, funny moments as well. I definitely can take myself and my job too seriously sometimes and that makes me a much more uptight, cranky teacher! So I decided to put up this display in the staff lounge and invite colleagues to add to it:

I just put some butcher paper on the wall, used some extra border I had with stars on it (our school's PBIS system is "STAR" so we do a lot of things with a star theme), cut out a few star shapes from regular copy paper, and made the letters and sign to create a title and explanation above it (feel free to copy and print to use yourself):

I also grabbed a few extra markers and pencils and put them in a cup to leave next to the board so people could write things down whenever they thought of something. I talked to the principal beforehand and each of us wrote an anecdote up immediately so staff would get the idea. It definitely took a few days to catch on but slowly but surely, more and more stories and quotes have started to be added- I love walking in to see a new one on the board, it makes me smile every time! And although the venting and complaining is definitely still there (as it should be), there are also conversations about the funny quotes that people posted mixed in as well, and that has had a small but positive effect on the mood in the room.

I've loved seeing people use it, and I hope we can fill up the entire wall by the end of the school year! And maybe next year I'll make something a little more permanent to use the same way so we can keep it going. What other ideas do you have for fostering positivity in the teacher room? I'd love to hear what you've seen in your buildings in the comments below!

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