The Teacher's Lounge
The Teacher’s Lounge is a space for teachers to come together to plan, learn, and connect with other teachers in the area. It was the product of my Master's Thesis.
By offering set times for planning and continuing education events, in a neutral location populated by a diverse community of educators, teachers are encouraged to commit time in their routines for preparing their lessons, and working with others to grow their practice.
The benefits of working at the Teacher’s Lounge come in the form of support, diversity, accountability, and community. Teachers at the lounge have access to other professionals who are committed to helping their cause and a network of experts to learn from. The diversity of the membership means that it’s a great opportunity for disseminating best-practices and innovation. The work that happens under the Teacher’s Lounge’s roof is able to be tracked and reported back to their institutions, so they get credit for their CE and prep work. The community at the Lounge is is inspiring and encouraging, reminding teachers just how important their work is.
Today, teachers are expected to find these outside resources themselves, which is an arduous task. Teachers have enough on their plates as is. When they are expected to manage their own CE and planning schedules on top of everything, it is at risk of happening haphazardly.
The target audience are middle-school and high-school teachers in the Lower East Side. The secondary audiences are the schools and cultural institutions that they teach at, as there is an opportunity to purchase memberships in batches. For obtaining infrastructural resources, the audience is any of a number of large organization looking for a tax-writeoff, with an interest in NYC start-ups, education, and/or technology.
There is a total market of ~7335 teachers within 2 miles of the proposed location for the Teacher’s Lounge around Delancey and Bowery, 720 of whom work at charter schools, and 2385 of which work in private schools. There are 163 middle and high-schools within a 2 mile radius of the location. Of those, 94 are public schools, 16 are charter schools, and 53 are private. The number of teachers at any specific school is not available publicly, but there are on average 45 teachers at a school in NYC (75,000 teachers in 1,700 schools).
The Teacher’s Lounge serves teachers in their professional development and in their planning process. On average a member would attend the Lounge once per week. The Lounge offers programs for PD Days (professional development), CEUs (continuing education), planning sessions, and social events. Most of the active members will attend at least one planning session and one additional event per week, and some may come with less frequency.
Teachers plan in isolation or in ad-hoc teams in their free-time, "Continuing Education Units" are stressful to find, and PD Days are a waste of time. There’s just a lack of consistency in access to these resources and that renders them relative ineffective.
The organization generates revenue from membership subscriptions, admissions to special events, corporate partnerships, and philanthropic contributions.
The Teacher’s Lounge will be successful because of the ongoing demand for this service. I have connections to dozens of schools, many teachers, experts in new educational models and technologies, and the Department of Education’s iZone.
The Teacher's Lounges is for those teachers who are motivated to bring more active learning experiences into their practice, to find a balance with all the passive lesson. It's for administrators and teachers who feel their hands are tied to the system's limits. They want to know how technology can help them, but it’s a huge time commitment. Given the context, it’s no surprise that teachers struggle to integrate technology into their curricula, let alone understand how it works. And what a shame it is, as we’re watching a revolution in edTech. We strive to make it easier to bring new resources it the practice of teaching.
Teachers do ⅓ of their work after the school-day, when they’re on their own time. Therefore, the work environment in which many teachers plan lessons is at their desk alone or at home alone. This is arguably the most important part of their jobs, and it is just not a creative work environment. Teachers need a work environment that offers structure for their continuing education, professional development, lesson planning, and refining communication skills. To design an active program with the agility to be personal to each student takes more than planning; it takes a supportive and inspiring community.
A COMPLEX PROBLEM
Today, half of teachers quit in their first five years. This has dramatic financial implications, as it costs between 15 and 50,000 dollars to hire and train a new teacher. What’s frightening about this statistic is not just sheer quantity of teachers who quit, but rather who makes up this half.
The teachers who quit are the innovators. They are the ones who, despite the lack of support, strive to exceed expectations, spending as much time in continuing education and planning as they do lecturing and grading. They sacrifice their personal lives for the engagement of their students. These are the teachers who burn out. This sentiment was shared by Tony Wagner, Amy Vreeland, and Juliette LaMontagne, all of whom were former teachers and eventually left the profession to impact the education system in other ways.
What’s tragic is that the half that quit are specifically the ones who represent the only hope of “fixing” our education system by restoring a healthy balance of active and passive lessons.
TENSIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR TEACHERS
This situation is the product of various intersecting tensions that exist. The Teacher’s Lounge hopes to address these tensions in order to ultimately reduce teacher attrition, increase adoption of technology, and bring about a better balance of active and passive learning opportunities in schools.
1. COMMUNITY, TIME, AND SPACE
Tension: Educators lack the infrastructure to work with educators from outside their own schools, to schedule time for planning into their routine, and to find a space where they can get away from their other obligations.
Opportunity: They need a creative space to meet regularly with a diverse community.
Outcome: From “Don’t fix what’s not broken” to “There’s always room to improve”.
2. LESSON DESIGN STRUCTURE
Tension: Educators want to design games and projects to make their lessons more actively engaging, but they don’t know where to start. It all feels rather arbitrary.
Opportunity: They need a way of transforming learning objectives into active lessons.
Outcome: From “Some things are just boring, it can’t all be fun” to “I want my students to love learning, even with its ups and downs”.
3. INTEGRATING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Tension: Educators want to learn how to use emerging technologies to support their teaching, and while they do get exposure to new tools and best practices, they don’t get enough support actually applying them to their specific classroom environments.
Opportunity: They need courses where they get practical help applying new tools.
Outcome: From “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” to “I’m a life-long learner, there’s nothing I can’t do if I work at it”.
Tension: Educators want to be proud of their lessons and share them, but without clear framing and good documentation, people seem to misunderstand which can lead to defensiveness from the teacher.
Opportunity: They need strategies to help them explain their work to others. Outcome: From “If they could see what I do, they wouldn’t understand” to
“Teaching is my art and I want the world to see it”.
Tension: Educators want to offer students opportunities to work independently, but they aren’t used to acting as coaches, and they rarely get useful feedback on their coaching styles.
Opportunity: They need the opportunity to practice coaching with peers.
Outcome: From “If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” to “If you give a mile, you’d be amazed what they can do with it”.