More Thoughts on Open Doorsby Brian Bennett on 06/2/2011
This week in #edchat we spent time discussing how to change teacher's images in the media, community, etc. Its a great topic and one that is certainly worth discussing. Teachers are facing more and more scrutiny about testing results, summer break schedules, pay...you name it. So the question that begs asking becomes: "How do we as teachers show that good work is happening inside schools today?"
I posted the following tweet when I joined in on Tuesday:
Schools need to adopt an open-door policy that allows other comm. members to see good teachers in action. #edchat
It was like the floodgates had opened. I received tweets about "safety issues" and "security concerns" that can arise from opening school doors. There are bigger ideas behind that tweet than what people initially read.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for safety and security for children in schools. But we can't let that fear of something going wrong stop us from making meaningful connections outside of school. Open doors aren't always a physical requirement. To even begin to actually open those front doors, we have to be mentally prepared to make that shift.
How do we prepare to open doors?
First, stop worrying about what can go wrong. If you're afraid of people seeing your classroom, there are probably bigger issues at hand. Learning is collaborative...we all know this from experience. Why can't we be okay with people - our colleagues, administrators, friends - stopping into our rooms? We shouldn't be afraid of sharing what we do with people that can push us to be better teachers. Teachers complain all the time about being evaluated by test scores, but then they refuse meaningful evaluation when someone steps into the room. There is a severe problem that needs to be addressed concerning this disconnect.
Second, step out digitally before you open up physically. It can be intimidating to share thoughts and ideas openly without knowing you'll have encouragement from someone. There are a TON of resources tutoring newcomers through Twitter, blogging, and connecting with other educators. It takes some practice and commitment, but the connections that can be made really will build your confidence in your trade and you will come away feeling encouraged and supported by other teachers working for the same goals.
Third, be proactive. Education has always been very private...but that isn't the way people work in the 21st century. We need to make meaningful connections in order to stay relevant, but it doesn't just happen. No one is going to bug you about the way you teach unless you ask them to...and even then, it might take some prodding. Be vocal about your desire to be more open to the public. Take time to meet with administrators, parents, and other members of the community and let them know you want to build relationships, not just talk at their kids every day.
The mental shift is the hardest to make because you have to make it happen. Be the change at your school and you'll start to see amazing things happen.