As a former student of a private Montgomery, Alabama high school, and an instructor currently working at my second private school in eight years of teaching, I have had some unique experiences that have shaped my view and understanding of faculty socialization. I still contend that schools are archaic and in need of structural change. Many continue to follow an outdated industrial Taylor model that promulgates what social scientist call the scientific management model. One aspect about the politics of schools that have served as a formative shaper of both students and teachers are faculty lounges.
Here is an interesting faculty lounge below:
My idealistic view of the faculty lounge clashes with that of popular culture; I see a room in which colleagues gather together to discuss their most recent class discussion or lecture. Furthermore, the lounge offers teachers a place to discuss local and national politics, as well as a forum for academic and social reform on campus. It is a gathering place to chat about recent faculty travels, conference attendance, and presentations. The lounge, however, has been shaped by faculty members who define conventional constructs and customary images. Such customary depictions have been played in movies and on television. I recall watching an episode of the Simpson’s in which Bart and the rest of his class fantasized about the secretive nature of the faculty lounge; they assumed that it was a place of luxury and wealth, a place where teachers gossiped about students and colleagues, and epitomized the notion of anti-intellectualism. More than that, the image popularized by cancelled TV shows, such as Boston Public, portrayed teachers more as social workers than holders of knowledge.
We do not have a faculty lounge at Houston Christian. Our campus ran into space problems four years ago, thus the lounge was out and an additional classroom emerged. We just completed the construction of a new $9 – 10 million Drake Performing Arts Center and a second gym….I suspect the future addition of a new campus student center might change this. I am curious to observe in an ethnographic fashion the behavior of HCHS faculty and staff; I suspect that with the brainpower and academic diversity on our campus, the faculty lounge will defy the sociological norms that exist.
Houston Christian’s Campus
HCHS is not the only campus to lack a faculty lounge. While visiting the Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, New York after spending a little time attending the American Historians Association meeting in Washington D.C., I was introduced to the concept of faculty coffee and tea time. At 10:30, faculty members can either spend a little time in their office working or head to the commons area for beverages. This of course was very interesting; I spent the morning with a classicist discussing the school and Chopin. Other teachers sat at a commons table used for faculty and student lunches. Here is what the Allendale School has to say about their commons:
At our family style lunch, the warm meal is delivered right to the tables. If you’re looking for something extra, you can usually find it at the salad, soup or cereal bars. Students and faculty eat lunch together in a civilized, enjoyable environment where conversation is more than just academics.
While visiting the St. John’s School of Houston last year, I was thoroughly impressed with their lounge; however, their lounge is broken up departmentally. At St. John’s, the history lounge consists of a departmental library with books and journals, as well as couches, faculty offices, and a seminar table. I did a search on dissertation abstracts to see if any sociology students have written on the sociological significance of the faculty lounge, but I found nothing. I suspect there is something out there or will be in the future on this topic.