23 September, 2009

Emotionally Literate Staffrooms

Have a quiet, critical look around your staffroom. Don’t just focus on who is in there, but spend some time looking at the details of the environment, and how it makes you feel. A depressing, unkempt and disorganised environment will certainly have a detrimental effect on your own emotions. Whilst a staffroom that is well laid out with appropriate seating and resources can be a stimulating environment, one that sets you in a positive frame of mind.

Remembering the key domains of Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning:
• Self Awareness
• Managing Feelings
• Motivation
• Empathy
• Social Skills

How effective is your staffroom environment in promoting a positive ethos towards Emotional Literacy?

The emotionally literate staffroom might be described as:• Welcoming, sharing and understanding
• Clean and fit for use (seating, work areas, internet access, relaxation areas, refreshments available)
• Calm
• Well used
• Informative (appropriate displays and notices)

In complete contrast the emotionally illiterate staffroom may well include:• Cliques
• Empty
• Overused
• Chaotic/noisy
• Dated furniture
• Lack of storage, work areas
• Out of date notices/displays

For many staff, the staffroom is the first point of contact with school on arrival in the morning, a place for relaxation/discussion and preparation during the day and also quite possibly the last point of contact with school at the end of the day. Creating a staffroom environment that is both fit for purpose and emotionally positive is an essential element of the teaching and learning environment. All adults working in the school need the boost of having a place that both demonstrates their value to the school and meets their emotional needs.

If possible work with a colleague and determine your observations of the staffroom under the headings of:• Tone
• Culture
• Climate
You may also want to qualify your observations by using direct references to issues such as, quality of furniture and general décor, availability of usable resources such as access to internet, appropriate working areas (including desks clear of books, paper and general clutter), quality of lighting and privacy where required (including privacy from outside observers at windows!).

Check out the notice boards. Are they full of unnecessary things (out of date) and colleagues hand written notes?

Have a look also at the hardware available, lockers or equivalent, tea and coffee making facilities (permanent hot water boilers), dishwasher, photocopier, printer, laminator etc etc.
Hopefully there are no longer staff rooms that still have the unwritten rules of:
“Don’t sit there, that’s Mr………chair!”

Oh you’re a visitor! Coffee and tea is 50p and all these cups belong to permanent staff!”

Speaking of visitors, it is also useful to speak to anyone who has visited the staff room as a non-member of the staff and get their opinion of the “Tone, culture and climate.” A second pair of eyes can be very revealing when trying to assess environments with which you are very familiar.

It is not the intention to make the staff room an area that is overly comfortable and removed from the every day issues of the school. It is more to ensure that all users of the area feel that it is a well-equipped working part of the school. It should be accessible to all members of staff, both teaching, non-teaching and senior leadership team members. The environment should be stimulating and yet restful in which users can feel confident to discuss both work related and personal issues.

It is vitally important that we consider the well being of all our students in schools, however don’t forget to include the well being of the staff of the school, ensuring that that feel supported, valued and prepared. Managing the behaviour of all the youngsters in the school can be a challenging role, an emotionally stable staff will go a long way in succeeding with this task. A well organised and “fit for purpose” staff room should not be discounted.