Let’s face it: going into the staff room at recess or lunch can be intimidating, discouraging, or feel like a waste of time. Yet I find myself continually encouraging teachers to do just that – to go into the staff room. It’s important for casual teachers to build rapport with the staff in the school; it’s important for beginning teachers to establish themselves amongst their work colleagues; and it’s important for experienced teachers to continue to build strong relationships with those they work alongside.
I’m often asked, “What do I say to someone in the staff room?”
Here are 5 steps to having a meaningful staff room conversation.
1) Make eye contact
When we are nervous or intimated we tend to look away from people and avoid eye contact. Making eye contact with another person is the best way to connect with them. Look them in the eyes and then do step 2:
The world always looks brighter from behind a smile. One of the simplest ways you can connect with a person in your staff room is to simply smile. As you lock eyes with someone, smile. As you make your cup of tea or coffee, smile at someone. Not in a weird pretend-happy kind of way, but in an authentic way. A smile really does make a big difference.
3) Ask questions
Take the initiative and ask the person a question. After the standard, ‘How are you?’ and/or ‘My name is…’ it’s a good idea to have a few questions ready to go.
Here are a few of my favourites, divided into 3 sections: professional, personal and practical.
– How long have you been teaching?
– What’s your favorite age to teach?
– What motivated you to become a teacher?
– Do you have your own children? (People love talking about their kids)
– Do you live nearby?
– What do you do when a student is off-task?
– How do you structure your classroom/program/timetable/etc?
– How do you manage your time?
Use these questions to help get the conversation going and remember to actually listen to what the person says.
4) Be genuinely interested
When the person responds to your question, be sure you are actually interested in what they say. Listen with your heart and eyes, not just your ears. Be fully present and fully engaged in what they’re saying.
5) Remember their name
Dale Carnegie, author of the classic book ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’, put it this way: “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Remembering a person’s name is super helpful for building meaningful relationships. Click below to download a little proforma I use to help me remember people’s names.
Whether it’s getting along with your boss or learning something new about a colleague, having meaningful staff room conversations is an important part of building rapport and healthy professional relationships.
This week, try it out. Go into your staff room. Smile. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Be genuinely interested. And remember names. Follow these 5 steps and you’ll notice how your engagement at school increases because you are building healthy relationships with those you work alongside.
Enjoy the journey,
And more importantly, enjoy the moments.
P.S. Do you need to have a difficult conversation with a colleague, friend or family member? Here’s how.
QUESTION: What is the staff room culture like in your school? You can leave your comments here.