Where Should I Lunch?Like many of you reading this, I had (have) a habit using my 30 minutes of uninterrupted lunch to take care of the necessities, answer email and voicemail, and regroup for my afternoon classes. One year, I committed to get out of my classroom and walk myself down to the teachers lounge for lunch. Eating at my desk versus eating in the lounge is not a matter of location – It's a matter of relationships.
When people gather together in the teachers lounge for lunch, there is sometimes "shop talk," and can include commiserating on occasion. But there are also conversations of upcoming vacations, planning for babies or weddings, sharing stories of the new puppy, talking about movies, and getting ready for the big rivalry game. We learn something about each other. We develop relationships. We build trust.
Teachers who really know each other as people are more likely to trust each other. When teachers trust each other, they are able to let their guard down. They feel safe taking risks. As a teacher, I probably know what my struggles are. I can either try to hide those struggles from my colleagues, or reach out to my friends for help. There may be new classroom ideas that intrigue me, but am hesitant to try them myself. I can either play it safe and stay the course, or reach out to get tips or observe a friend who is already trying something new. Those conversations of true collaboration and team won't happen without trust.
It's common for teachers to eat lunch with a few others in someone's classroom. I have seen this help to create strong bonds within that group which, in turn, leads to some amazing things from that team and their students. When those smaller groups converge into the larger group – either the grade level at lunch, or whole staff gathering for Friday donuts – the connections spread to a whole-school culture. The entire organization is impacted. Ultimately, student learning is impacted.
I'm not a shy person. However, it still takes a certain amount of bravery to walk into the teachers lounge for lunch when the rest of the teachers already know each other. Nevertheless, I made a point to enter into conversations across peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.
Magic happened! I got to know people. I was able to join in casual conversations not only in the teachers lounge, but also in the hallway. Casual conversations led way to, "Hey! Check this out! I just learned this and thought of you. I know you're into fill in the blanks. Do you want to get together sometime and talk some more about this?"
On a side note, this blog entry and the commitment to blog once each month is a result of a challenge with one of my teachers. Although I knew her professionally, it was our lunches together that initially allowed us to develop a relationship where we had a casual conversation about blogging. We came up with this challenge, then encourage each other to be successful. Thanks, Melissa Voss!
I don't always practice what I preach. I find myself immersed in a project and a good stopping point doesn't always cooperate with the bell schedule. I do believe in what I'm saying. I think the teachers lounge is the place where relationships and trust are established, and I think that kids ultimately benefit from the culture that is created there.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for lunch.