A few days ago, United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew asked a collection of us, “How many of you teach with your doors open?” I presumed he meant metaphorically, so I raised my hand. During breakfast, he reiterated the push for teacher professionalism, and one of the keys to school success in his mind is opening our doors to the rest of our school.
I’m assuming he meant opening metaphorically, and I agree. Our current phrase of mind when it comes to education, however, makes me cautious. How do teachers keep their doors open when the people who visit don’t always give appropriate feedback? How do they open their doors when they seem to control less and less of what actually happens in it? How do they open their doors when they don’t always have a sense of trust, in administration, in colleagues, in the plethora of visitors who come with a critical eye, often to the detriment of everyone else in the classroom?
Sometimes, opening the classroom door often makes us vulnerable, and teachers aren’t confident that doing so will lead us to growth as educators.
Yet again, when will we open our doors? Opening our doors has been the best tried and true professional development any of us receive. When I walk into a classroom as a humble observer, I get a chance to sit as a student, both taking in the view that the student does, but also checking out pedagogical approaches from the teacher. Teaching with our doors open changes the conversation from, “Leave me alone” to “I got nothing to hide!” There’s a power in leaving your door open (even metaphorically) that’s assumed when a passerby sees it.
I get it, too. Sometimes, the hallways are noisy, the rush never stops during a double period, or the one or two wanderers find their way into your classroom when you’re turned around, trying to cause a commotion on the other side. In those moments, I find my door closed, too. When I get a moment, I’ll pop the door back open, hoping my students see that I’m not afraid of whoever should drop by. Whoever should come in ought to know that I’ll take whatever remarks they’ll have, and adjust accordingly. Even if it’s absolute nonsense.
But what do you think? Do you leave your classroom door open? Do you think people should? What are your thoughts about open classrooms?