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Blog task 2 – observations of a common room

August 8, 2014 by meghastie   

As I lead a decidely boring life, and don’t have the leisure of a morning coffee shop trip (jealous, moi??), the space I’ve chosen is my school’s high school common room.

This room is used every morning for brief staff meetings (with Pre-K – 12 staff and the whole school support staff), for general high school meetings.  It is also used as a general staff break-out room for recess / lunch, and for some staff functions.

I’ve done two observations this week, based on two of the different needs – the daily morning meeting time and “relaxation”{ time (ie lunch)

My drawing of the common room

My drawing of the common room

Morning meeting                        

  • Staff come in through one of four doors – two at the “back” of the  space, where most staff come in. These come from the general school / playground area. Two doors come from inside the reception / office area.  Executive staff tend to come through there and casual staff / visitors
  • As you walk in the door at the left back, you can see right through to the admin area – specifically you see the office where  the casual staff are coming in and getting keys / laptops etc for the day.  This area is often quite busy and glancing down there it can seem quite chaotic.  Executive staff come out of their offices and through this corridor and into the staffroom;  so do the casual staff.  If I was a casual staff walking out there, you have to walk past the person presenting (usually the principal or an executive member), into a sea of faces looking at you – a little scary as you’re often coming in, in the middle of the morning presentation.
  • view from one of the back doors through the common room area and up into the front office area

    The iew from one of the back doors through the common room area and up into the front office area

  • If you walk in through the other back door, you walk into the wall of staff pigeonholes, and can see down the corridor towards the principal’s office.
  • With both doorways there is a slight wall that you walk past and then make a decision as to where to sit – either in the armchair seating, or on the tables at the back.
  • At the front is the space where messages are presented and people talk from.  There’s a large flat screen there that can be used during meeting times, and a movable lectern that people use as appropriate
  • There is no way to navigate from one side of the room to the other apart from across the front section (where presenters stand).  If staff come in late, as there is no clear passage through, and someone is already talking they will sit on the floor, leaning again a wall or the pigeonholes
  • Seating – a series of large tables at the back of the space, with benches.  No backs to the benches (although if on the “wall side”, people can lean against it).  Also, four double rows facing each other of “comfy” (not really!!) armchairs.
  • Table seats are coveted as they mean you can look at the speaker without having to twist or turn in your seat.  The arm chairs you have to either turn to the side, or, depending where they are, turn right around.  This is not comfortable for a 15 minute session.
  • There is also a large gap between the rows of “comfy” seating facing each other, so if you wanted to chat to someone opposite, you would have to lean forward to talk comfortably.
  • There are 3 sets of noticeboards, all covered with documents.  2 are about 2m x 1m, the other covers most of the back wall – 4-5m x 1m.  There’s a lot of dense writing on all of them, they are located on walls, so on opposite sides of the room.  No titles / headings saying what is on what wall. 
  • Lighting is bare double fluorescent tubes.
general view of the common room from front / side

General view of the common room from front / side, just before the morning meeting


  • Not many people sit here for lunch.  From a staff of about 95 in the high school area (this includes teaching and non-teaching staff), the number fluctuates between 4 and 13 during the lunch break I am there.  This is about normal (I asked the regulars).
  • People tend to sit in small groups at the table – as stated before the chairs are too far apart to sit comfortably, leaning back, and to eat / chat.  Everyone is at a table.
  • Some of them do the cryptic crossword together.

    view into kitchen off the side

    The view into kitchen off the side of the common room

  • Lots of people pass through the area – on the way to the toilets, the front office area, to grab a “walkie talkie” for playground duty, or going to the photocopier.
  • A couple of people sit in there and eat their lunch and do work / are on their computers or just reading a newspaper / magazine.  The daily papers are there, plus some teaching and other magazines.

 I’ve commented on





  1. moniquemcqueen says:

    Hi Megan,
    Ahh…the common staff area. It can be a great place to catch up with others, enjoy lunch and talk teaching and education. It can also be a political and socially challenging environment. I’m a bit surprised about the lack of staff there at lunchtime. Are they choosing to go elsewhere? Are they just to busy to stop? I think there are possibilities for a lot of moral boosting interactions to be had in staff rooms. I am always amazed what happens in our staff room when free food is available, everyone comes together. We have two long tables with chairs both sides, but we are running out of room – so it will be interesting to see how they improve and enlarge the space. I think to improve this space it would be great to ask questions about what the staff (and all the stakeholders not just executive) see as the function of the space, what people do and don’t do in the space, break down patterns in behaviour. All of the organisation needs to understand the goal of the space too (Brown, 2009).
    Brown, T. (2009) Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from:

  2. gazet says:

    Hi Megan,
    This is a really interesting space and one that could do with some reviewing. It is such a bog space that could be used for a huge variety of functions as well as what it currently is involved in.
    I would love to see you do some C-K brainstorming with your staff cohort to see how you change change the space to make it 1) more inviting for you all to use and 2) more fit for a multi-purpose space.

  3. Sharon Hanson says:

    Hi Megan
    Read your blogs the wrong way around.
    Your observations on your staff room are very thorough. I have the same issue as I have not been out and about that much to have coffee! The large area is full of possibilities.

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