177. The Teachers’ Room

In most schools, there is a place where teachers can go to be away from non-teachers. They sit around a table or on a couch and talk freely. We (I almost wrote “you”) non-teachers are fine people; we shouldn’t be offended. But it’s nice for teachers to know that there is one place where they can hang out and hang loose. The parents may not mean to apply pressure and create stress. The children may really care about their teachers, and want teachers’ lives to be easy. But the teachers’ room, when free of non-teachers, is a place where that lack of stress, that ease can happen.
Teachers are conditioned to speak and behave differently when parents, children and other non-teachers are around. They occasionally change the subject quickly if an outsider enters the room. In many ways, we’re all in the same boat, but there are things teachers just don’t say or do when non-teachers are around. Sometimes a teacher is a parent. One year, I taught in the school where my daughter was a student. I never heard mention of my daughter’s name in the teachers’ room (though I’m quite sure only positive things would have been said about her).
Granted, some of the things said in the teachers’ room may be things that should never be said. They should never even be thought. Occasionally, there are nasty thoughts about people that get verbalized in the teachers’ room, and verbalizing them sometimes does more harm than good. But even some nasty thoughts are better when they’re given some fresh air.
As a volunteer, I sometimes eat lunch with children, and sometimes with teachers. I don’t think I’m being a double agent, and when I spend time with some of the parents after school, I don’t think I’m being a triple agent. Sometimes I invite the principal to parties I have. I don’t think that makes me a quadruple agent.
But there are times when I sense that there is something trying to happen in the teachers’ room, and my presence there is stopping it from happening. I am not employed by the school system. Teachers don’t have to answer to me; I’m not in a position to evaluate them.
But from a teacher’s point of view, maybe I’m someone who will talk to parents about what I hear. Maybe I’ll write an article about it. And so I make a point of listening for those times, and finding a way to make a subtle exit, leaving the teachers’ room as a sanctum. I urge you to do the same. Most of the discussions that take place in that sanctum, whether they’re about teaching or not, help to make school a better place for everyone who enters the building.

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