This Blog is a Little "Dirty"

Eklund Consultant Todd Battaglia writes about physical locations in education and how that can affect our influence on our students and colleagues.

As I was vacuuming the house the other day, I started to notice where the vacuum cleaner made the most noise.  The clickity-clack of dirt going through the machine.  The satisfying sound of vacuuming. In front of the couch, the area around the door to the master bedroom, the kitchen, all seemed to be the places where the most dirt had gathered.  These are my family’s common spaces; the places where we leave our footprints, where we spend our time.  These are the areas where the dirt is, where we grow our life together.

As I continued to vacuum, I thought about the idea of where we live as educators.  A simple fact is that we probably spend more awake time in our classrooms and school offices per week than in any other one place besides asleep in bed.  In that space, where are the most footprints?  Behind a desk? Behind the lectern?  In the front of the class by the whiteboard or smartboard?

Where we leave our footprints is important.  When we work as educators, we leave behind several types of footprints – influence, voice, information, direction.  It is important that these are spread out to maximize our coverage.  Often times, educators can get stuck in ruts that keep us stationary – too much lecturing, too much time spent in our offices – and take away our potential influence to all. 

Teachers can become too reliant on one style of teaching.  Lecturing, small-group work, individual seat work all put the the teacher in a “place.”  Whether that place be behind a lectern, behind one of the those cool, semicircle desks with the cutout, or behind the “teacher’s desk,” a teacher can spend too much time in one location.  Spread out the footprints. 

Educators should also be spreading footprints throughout the school building.  While in teacher education classes, I was often told to “stay out of the teachers’ lounge.”  Apparently, one could find the wrong type of “dirt” in there.  I have found through my work with Eklund Consulting that schools with positive culture often have fun, interesting, and informative staff lounges that inspire and encourage colleagues to gather for emotional wellness and communication.  These are two areas that often score low on our School Workplace Satisfaction Survey.  Also, how many footprints do we leave in other educators’ classrooms?  Watching other educators work, can be an invigorating and informative time for the educator coming to watch a colleague, rather than an evaluation or critique of the educator being watched.  

One of my favorite phrases shared with building administrators is “They hired you to work in a school, not an office.”  Administrators can become stagnant at the computer and in the paperwork of the job.  An answer to revitalizing work and culture in a building can be as simple as motion.  Get out of the office; see your teachers work in a non-evaluative moment; meet kids in their environment, leave some footprints in their world.  It gives an opportunity to grow something together.

There is another blog to be written about the type of dirt our feet leave behind and how to fertilize that dirt to make our little flowers grow.  I even branched out into that a a few times here (see that – branched), but I’m really interested in the location of your footprints.  Where do they collect?