By Teachers, For Teachers
One persistent problem for teachers is the difficulty of getting important professional development or daily work done during non-teaching periods. While there are many causes to this problem, a school’s creation of a “Teacher Quiet Zone” can help to curb the problem and make teachers use professional development time to be more productive during their day.
A teacher quiet zone is simply a place teachers can go within the school building specifically designated for working without interruption or interference.
There are many shapes such an area could take. In its basic elements, a quiet zone would be in a location isolated from other school activities, with space for teachers to work alone. A faculty lounge or a desk in a busy office would not work. Those are places full of conversations and activity, and not conducive to facilitating a distraction-free period of work.
A better location might be an unused classroom, a segmented corner of the media center, or an underutilized conference room. Cubicles or study carrels are not required, but could be very helpful in providing the right kind of environment. At the very least, plenty of space is necessary so teachers can spread out and not feel like they’re too near to one another.
It might be helpful to include a variety of office supplies teachers would ordinarily need, as this would help negate teachers having to leave and comeback to get something. And who said work can’t be done comfortably? Include couches, comfy chairs, and stellar tables as places to work. A coffee maker and refrigerator help to create a comfortable atmosphere as well, without turning it into a teacher’s lounge.
What makes this space different is that it is specifically designated as a “Quiet zone,” and anyone entering agrees to the rules of the room. The rules (which can be displayed on the wall) should emphasize that the room is for individual work. No talking. No distracting noises or activities. No unnecessary personal devices to distract you. No meetings or collaboration. No students.
Also, calling the room the “Teacher Quiet Zone” is pretty lame. Come up with an appropriate name for the area that is both clear and fun.
Productivity increases when there are as few distractions as possible coming between a teacher and their work. Teachers may need to lesson plan, grade student work, prepare examples, study materials, design a presentation, prep for a meeting, respond to emails, or any of an innumerable set of tasks. But when their off period involves interruptions and distractions, teachers are less likely to get through their to-do list.
A teacher’s off period in a location not designated for quiet work may involve students walking in for help or to say hello, colleagues chatting about work or life, or personal materials like cell phones or desk organizers cutting into one’s concentration. These things are not bad, but they become bad when they pull a teacher’s focus away from the task they really want to accomplish.
A designated quiet work area provides teachers the chance to escape from a distracting environment, zero in on the task at hand, and crank out their work. This ultimately helps to make teachers more productive and less stressed. Mark Barnes, education author and blogger, points out how “Casual interruptions can eliminate much of this crucial prep time” and a simple fix is to “Designate a teacher zone or hideaway for uninterrupted work.”
The goal of a teacher quiet area is for teachers to isolate themselves from distractions and focus on completing their important tasks. Yes, this is absolutely about teachers separating themselves from colleagues and students, but the result is teachers who are more productive, who make better use of their time during the school day, and who feel better about keeping up with their workload.
We cannot pretend that the only good way for a teacher to spend time at school is to be working with others. When important work that must be completed independently needs doing, teachers require a time and place to do it.
If a teacher finds that he or she is spending all of their free time in this quiet space and cuts out time with peers and students entirely, then that teacher should make adjustments to balance their interactions. But adding this practical solution to a common problem may improve the quality of teaching and the quality of life for teachers in the long run.
Barnes also emphasizes transparency with the quiet room. Don’t let it look like a secret hideaway where parents and students speculate what goes on. Instead, clearly label the room, make its purpose and location common knowledge, and encourage teachers to make frequent use of it. You don’t need a space to feed rumors; you need a space to feed productivity.
Do you have a teacher quiet zone in your school? Tell our TeachHUB.com community what you love or don’t love about it in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.