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February 26, 2014

Teacher OFFICES?! You Heard Me Right!

I know. You saw the title of this post and thought it was an oxymoron, right?! Teacher OFFICES?! Yes, you heard me right. And I’m not talking about big desks in classrooms. I am talking about real deal, bona fide offices.

I frequently hear from teachers that one of the biggest challenges to using time wisely during the school day is that there is simply no PLACE to work that is free from interruptions and distractions, AND has all the necessary materials to actually get anything done. (Side note: These offices differ from a great teacher’s lounge, one of our most popular blog posts.)

Here’s how I found them: While roaming the halls of Excel Academy in Boston a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this door…

Feeling a bit bold, I knocked quietly. A teacher let me in, and after profusely apologizing for interrupting, I was floored. A room for teachers to work. . . quietly. . . professionally. . . with PRINTERS. . . and real office chairs…and all professional books in ONE accessible location — not stacked in boxes at home (ahem, Jack) or buried in classroom closets.

Here are some pictures of Excel’s teacher offices. Don’t be jealous. OK, be a little jealous. I was!

Teacher workspace

More teacher workspaces!

Sunlight and professional development materials

Space is an issue in most school buildings. In fact, if you are lucky enough to have a prep period, your room is likely taken over by a mobile music teacher who needs a place to teach 30 kids to play the bongos. I even know one teacher who has taken to planning in a SUPPLY closet. It’s a large one, and she doesn’t mind, but jeesh…

Here’s what I learned about how these offices came to be, shared with me by a leader at Excel:

Why did you decide to invest in this resource?

We saw that teachers who work in their classroom get isolated from the rest of the building. They also get frequently interrupted and don’t have room for all of their materials.

How did you set it up?

The teachers are grouped by content (e.g. all math teachers sit in the same area) and, to the extent possible, they have common planning time. This was built off a Harvard Business School case on Hallmark about how innovation and collaboration improved when the cubicle walls were taken down. The design is driven by the desire to have our people talk to each other – the best resource on how to teach something is probably the person right beside you kind of thing!

Excel, this is incredible. I would have LOVED something like this when I was teaching. I’ve seen similar things in non-profits, like a “Study Hall” conference room for those who want to work in a quiet space.

For those of you who do not have the space to make this happen (though I would encourage you to get creative), are there newfangled ways you can create a similar atmosphere?

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