If you call the Fountain Valley High School Teacher’s Lounge during the school day and I pick up the phone, you are guaranteed to hear a lie. On picking up the phone I’ll say “English office, Mr. Theriault speaking.”
Now the lie isn’t that I say ENGLISH office, even though the room is for the entire staff, the room is in the English hall and we have twenty-one+ English teachers so we kinda take over the space.
No the lie is that it’s not the office, it’s the lounge. We have a small English office just twenty feet away. So why do I call our lounge an office? Perception. My mentor/Master Teacher Jim Caforio taught me to answer the phone that way twenty years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since. People think we are busy doing important stuff if we are doing it in an office. The irony of course is that much more work gets done in the lounge than in the office. Why?
Cause the lounge has more couches and couches create conversations.
Okay, so your lounge has couches, big deal, every lounge has couches. Well I’m here to try and convince you why you need a couch in your classroom and why you need to create conversation couches in other areas of your life.
For the first ten years of my teaching career I didn’t have a couch in my room. Then I started working with my teaching sisters, Minnie and Annalise. Annalise had this super comfy chair in her room and Minnie had this small couch that worked like a de facto psych couch (not strangely enough Minnie is a psychology major).
I started noticing that I always spent my time after school in their room and that they never came to my room. One day I tried to guilt them about how they never came to my room.
“Well… there’s no where comfortable to sit in your room except for your teacher’s desk chair and you are already sitting in that” They replied.
The positions we take to try and stay comfortable in a desk, pity our poor students after six periods.
I brought in a used couch shortly thereafter, and ever since then I’ve tried to maintain a space in my room that welcomes an extended stay, a conversation. So Minnie can play psychologist in room 130.
So what makes a great place for a conversation and community building. Well, according to this extremely thorough article at the Community Toolbox Website called “Creating Good Spaces for Interaction” these spaces need four basic characteristics:
There has to be a reason for people to go there.
There has to be a reason for people to want to stay once they’ve arrived.
People in the space have to feel safe and comfortable.
The space has to be welcoming and accessible to everyone.
So the space doesn’t HAVE to be a couch, it could be
- A meal in a memorable or favorite place (I have a whole blog post dedicated to the importance of a memorable meal)
- A walk. I have a colleague, Amy, who loves to walk. A walk with her would fulfill all four elements of a great place for conversation and community.
- A car ride. I love my quick car rides with Doug to grab a bite to eat at lunch.
- A Voxer channel (read this article to find out how Voxer can change your teaching and learning life)
Of all of the four characteristics of a good space for interactions I really love number four:
The space has to be welcoming and accessible to everyone.
So that space can’t be a Spartan obstacle course, it’s can’t be an innovation lab that only welcomes those comfortable with using technology (do you have non-tech ways of innovating in your innovation lab), in other words how can you make sure your “couch” is not a club.
You should strongly think about getting a comfy chair or better yet a couch for your classroom, office, or “innovation lab.” If you want people to have a reason to show up or stay either make sure your seating is comfortable or have a stash of chocolate. (Right Minnie?)
I’m so blessed to have such a smart and fun teaching “sister” next door. #ditchingschool
Now all this couch talk got me thinking about all the couch talks I have with other smart people so I’ve decided to make one new addition and one big change to my blog for 2015.
I’m going to start a series of shorter posts called “Couch Talks” where I share with you the really smart and interesting things I learn in conversations with others. These won’t be every week, but they will run regularly. My first two couch talks will be:
- Couch Talk Chapter 1: How To Run Your Meetings And Innovation Sessions Like A Hollywood Pro: A post dinner couch talk I had with my sister-in-law who is a [super] successful (the super part is my humble opinion) Hollywood TV producer who will teach us how to hold meetings, brainstorming sessions, and innovate like the pros do in Hollywood.
- Couch Talk Chapter 2: How Darpa Can Transform Professional Development and Edcamps: A pre-dinner couch talk I had with my brother-in-law who is a research scientist for the military think tank Darpa. His talk will help transform how we innovate, learn, and run edcamps and other conferences.
I’m a big fan of reflection and feedback. Even though people seem to like my blog, I’m always asking my friends and people I trust what I should do differently with my blog. The comment I get the most is “sometimes I can’t read your blog posts right away because I know they are going to be long” or “I can barely read Theriault, you’re killing me with all this writing stuff.”
Additionally there are some things I’m not happy about with both my blog and how I use Twitter.
On my blog there are three sections for shorter shares
The problem with these three areas is that they are just one long post and I can’t use anchor links to point people directly to a resource or idea. But I do want a place to put my short shares because Twitter is failing me at being an archive for these short shares and ideas. Even though I always put a picture on a Tweet that I want to find later (so that I just have to wade through my “photos and videos” tweets) finding a particular tweet is a laborious process.
So I’m going to slowly remove these short share sections from my blog and focus my blog thereadinessisall.com on blogging, both my personal blogging and student blogging. I may even end up changing the theme and look of my blog to facilitate the “Long Reads” nature of my blog. If you want to find my short shares and want to see what a David Theriault blog with shorter and more frequent posts than you can go to www.ideaFM.org my brand new 2nd blog. It looks like this so far.
Hope you enjoy it. See you soon.
PS, if you want to find some fancy seating besides a couch, be my guest and knock yourself out…