Creative coffee morning…and evening.

I really wanted to resist the urge to have a creative coffee morning amongst colleagues. I tried. Given, however, the exhortation to get people together who don’t usually collaborate on anything creative, I thought that was enough reason to push on.

There were representatives from several different faculties at the school (Art, Design, History, the Director of Studies, English, Science, Music, Media Studies, RE) most of whom would rarely spend time together, let alone in a discussion based around creating learning spaces. Secondary schools are notorious for retaining a silo mentality but without an underlying thread tying us together, apart from the overarching assessment culture, I would say there is often more that divides than unites us.

What was surprising was the enthusiasm in the discussion about learning spaces. Everyone wanted to talk about the Library, as we had just sent out a survey about Library usage to canvas views of what will happen with the introduction of the BYOD program next year. Steering ideas into other spaces around the school eventually came back to the Library! Our school is spread out, mostly single level with little outside covered space. In a climate like Canberra’s, any space that is warm in winter and cool in summer is bound to be well-used. Some felt the communal space of the Library had so much potential. Others were very happy with the current layout. (!) Several people commented though, how there had never been any invitation to talk about the actual space before. It was a revelation. The new architecturally designed senior school building (up for public architecture awards this year) has beautiful new spaces, but some teachers are less than positive about its potential to enhance learning. They expressed the view that they had not been asked to have any input. Decisions were made that didn’t include all stakeholders, although I do know many teachers were not prepared to get on board with some of the more interesting design ideas that have been introduced. Ultimately the process is the product – it’s not so much the outcome but the opportunity to actually get together and talk about what we have in common. Perhaps there may have been more uptake in the new spaces if teachers felt included.

CCMLibrary classroom layout

Note the prescriptive layout of the Library classroom as per attachment to door. The creative coffee morning created a pretext for people to get together though, and was worth it, even if we did move the furniture.

The evening event was a small gathering – a sculptor,  an artist, several teachers. This time we were in the beautiful new foyer and restaurant space of Hotel Hotel, edgy and modern.

Monsters Monsters2

The concept of creativity was the focus. You can be creative with what you have, said the sculptor – you don’t have to knock everything over and start again. Creativity and innovation appear to be obvious allies but adaptation rather than innovation also gives scope for creativity. The creativity lies as much in what you do with what you have, as it does in knocking everything down and starting again. This way of thinking resonates with me as I have begun to see space differently. Unfortunately the noise level of the hotel precluded recording what people had to say! Shades of Julian Treasure and the ability of architects to listen.


I have commented on

Matt’s post

Helen’s post

Ronnie’s post

Margaret’s post




5 thoughts on “Creative coffee morning…and evening.

  1. Your comment about silos in schools resonated with me. It can be that way in education offices too – everyone doing great things for schools but little collaboration amongst departments. I am beginning to sound like a broken record when I ask for people to quarantine time in calendars for us to meet and work out where our work overlaps and how we can work smarter to support schools in their work. It was great to note how much people appreciate the library as a central place in the school. This coffee morning may hopefully have planted a seed that can bloom into greater discussions about developing more creative spaces across the campus. Teachers may not have had much say in the design of the buildings and classrooms, but they may begin to see possibilities for creative ways to use the spaces.

  2. Just like Michele has mentioned, what struck me most about your blog post was the silos in schools. You said you wanted to avoid having a coffee morning at school amongst colleagues, but it sounds like that’s precisely what your colleagues needed – to break down some invisible boundaries and talk about what’s going on in the school. I think most of these coffee mornings have planted seeds with others about designing spaces for learning, and has helped others who aren’t in our class be aware of the impact that space has on learning. I really enjoyed reading your post; you’ve made some excellent points!

  3. I totally agree with the sentiment about trying to get non-school people involved, but the fact that you got different members of faculty together to share ideas is definitely worthwhile. the silo effect in secondary schools is a tough one to overcome, and our coffee meets are a simple way to do so. I will be adding more departments to my next one next term.
    Trying to have a second meet in a foreign location was a great solution to getting ‘others’ to participate (I did the same). I hope that the ideas generated snowball.

  4. Yes, i agree with the silo mentality – working in a Pre-K – 12 school, the way the Junior school operates is very different to the High school section. I hosted a similar ewvent, and was foruntte enough to get a wide rage of voices from across the staff, including outside the teaching arena. It really added to the array of voices. Have you thought about how to include the students as well? if the teachers feel a bit left out of the discussion, how do the student users feel? always a big question in any high school that is often overlooked! like you; i think these coffee adventures have been a great way to start creative dialogue within schools – great job!!

  5. Well done on organising two different events – they seem to have different audiences, different subject matter and very different venues. I am sure that they have contributed to your understanding of design in two very different contexts. After viewing quite a few ‘Creative Coffee blog posts’ it seems that people are willing to contribute ideas when invited, as they have done in both of your situations. Margo

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