Monday, January 19, 2015

The Teacher Resource Center (aka TRC)... Every School Should Have One

I was reminded this morning by the fabulous Nancy Caramanico that we talk a lot about our Teacher Resource Center (TRC) but have never really explained what it is and why it was created.  Well... nothing like a request :-)

I wish I could say that the idea of a playground for faculty (what we would call a MakerSpace in 2014) was all well thought out and planned.  But it wasn't.  The space was original made to house a special collection library from the Liberty Fund and function as a reading room for adults.  Admittedly, JD and I saw a bit broader application to the space - and we acted on it as soon as possible.  Of course, the Liberty Fund collection is still present in the room.

Panoramic shot of TRC during tech week

In keeping with our Ignatian foundation, the TRC is a space for faculty and staff to experience and reflect on practices.  This can be as formal as an after school Ignatian Themes formation class or as informal as doughnut Thursdays.  The space is across the hall from the current library and will be remodeled as part of our Information Commons.  Visitors find comfortable/flexible furniture, web meeting software, a 3D printer,
complete set-up of classroom Extron system to experience and many print/electronic/human resources.  We also have a Keurig coffee maker and snacks (usually - Social Studies is quite the group of hunter/gathers and often clean us out).  Basically, anything a teacher would want to try before going into the classroom - we have the space to play.

Beyond space is the human relationship element.  In the picture above, you'll see three doors.  The door at 3:00 is my office.  While I moved into that office as Director of Faculty Development... I stayed when my responsibilities broadened out to Assistant Principal.  Why?  I like being close to the action of information services... I have more casual conversations about curriculum, technology integration and the values of DC over Marvel comics than I would if I had moved to the administrative suite.  For me, the relationships fostered by my location, and the ability to sit and have a cup of coffee with a colleague, trump anything else.

The door at 1:00 goes to the hall and the library.  The proximity to the library, and future integration into the Information Commons, highlights our resolve that learning, research and reflection is not just for students.  Students see adults engaged in new experiences, collaborating or working quietly... great modeling!

The door at 9:00 leads to IT offices.  Of course - you want to be close to the troubleshooters!   And yes, that is JD's mess about 7:30.  As I said in previous post, you have to make a mess to make progress and JD is the living image.


Our 1:1 BYOT program was thought up, piloted, reflected on and implemented in the TRC.  From everything to chalk-talks to Tech Petting Zoos to department Boot Camps... we did it all in the TRC.  I strongly suggest anyone even considering a 1:1 or major technology or curricular shift create a TRC - a safe space for conversation and trial experiences.

What I did not anticipate is the organic conversations and connections made in the space.  Teachers meet in the TRC as grade level teams because the furniture allows for easy collaboration.  Cross-curricular discussions start up daily over the coffee maker.  Even students have been invited in to teach adults
how 3D printing can be used in the classroom (this will change with renovations as students will have their own MakerSpace in the Information Commons).  The space is used beyond any one technology initiative... discussion of curriculum, policy, evaluation process and assessments, architectural design, summer camps, athletics ... it all takes place in the TRC!

Key Elements

  • Flexible furniture!  You'll want to re-arrange space for large/small, formal/informal groups as well as individual work spaces.
  • The room cannot be on the meeting room schedule. We protect the space for organic experiences by keeping it off the Outlook room schedule.  
  • Everything in the classroom is present and available for faculty to try.  The TRC was a safe place this summer as we trained, practiced and reflected on the new Extron system installed in all classrooms.  This ensured on Day 1 that faculty were ready to go.
  • Don't forget print resources... some folks still like to curl up with a print book on curriculum design or classroom management and that's okay.  We cater to all users.
  • Quick access to people who can help.  In our case, the proximity to IT, Librarians and Administrators has made for quick actions to identified challenges (small and large).
  • And coffee really does help...

In the new space, the TRC will be a little smaller.  It's okay...really.  Through experience we have learned that the room is best used for small groups or 1 on 1 troubleshooting/brainstorming.  An intimate space for personalized support.  All the doors and offices stay put so the human side will not change.  Plus we'll have a great new space outside the door for collaboration with others!  

So that's the TRC in a nutshell, Nancy :-)  Glad you asked!!