Monday, 3 March 2014

Teacher Development Down (in?) the Toilet

In a previous post, I talked about how our school has developed these scholarship circles on a variety of topics to give teachers time to develop both themselves and the centre. Now, the Teacher Development circle (of which I’m a part) recently discussed the issue of how we can constantly provide teachers with new ideas and activities to take in their classrooms.

In the past various things had been tried. Interesting journal or website articles were sent round via email, or they were stuck to various notice boards around the staffroom and teacher offices. Useful ideas and activities were also posted on our internal website. But none of these had really worked, teachers are just too busy to open up articles in their inbox, notice boards tend to just be walked by anyhow as they are a jumble of adverts and dull university notices and the website was just too many clicks away.

So, we realised we needed to get a bit creative and guerilla with our approach. In one of the meetings we were discussing this topic and someone came up with the statistic - and I’m still not sure if this is true - that across species it takes an average of 21 seconds to urinate. We realised that this was probably enough time for a teacher to read a description of a quick practical activity for the classroom or a summary of an article.

OK, I know this is not a new idea, advertisers have been exploiting this for years and that’s why at service station toilets I’m frequently stood there reading adverts for bladder dysfunction clinics and motorbike insurance companies. But using it for teacher development is a pretty novel idea. 

So, every week a new activity is posted in all the toilets near the staffrooms, sometimes it’s just a short activity or warmer they can go away and use immediately, sometimes a summary of a longer article with a copy of the article in a plastic folder available nearby. 
An example of one of our activities. Just to let you know I didn't take this picture know. 
Is it working? Well, it certainly generated a lot of discussion when it first went up, far more than any article sent round by email, some teachers liking it, others thinking it was a bit weird. And just from my own personal experience, if you asked me now what the articles/activities were over the last couple of weeks I could tell you immediately (one was on use of the L1 in class, another on use of teacher voice). I probably couldn’t do the same for any article that had been sent round or posted on a notice board. Maybe I’ve just got a weak bladder and those with stronger constitutions are missing out…

I’m thinking that maybe we can extend this to the student toilets as well, a quick vocab quiz or cloze test while they are otherwise engaged. Hey, we put stuff on our classroom walls all the time, there’s no reason why peripheral learning can’t be stretched a bit further.


  1. I think this is a great idea. It reminds me of the initiatives at places like (was it?) Harvard, where they installed whiteboards into departmental bathrooms...recognising the toilets as a social space where people might chat..and have ideas. This is not quite the same, but I can really see it working. Love it. Brings a new dimension to the P in EAP :-)

    1. didn't know about the Harvard idea but like it, our bathrooms are a bit on the small side so we might struggle there ;-)