Teaching with the Door Open

This could also be titled, “My Failures as a Teacher” because, for the life of me, I have not been able to do this next thing that I am about to talk about with consistency ever since I moved from a secluded classroom, closed off by hallway doors, into a space smack dab in the middle of a second floor hallway. Most progressive teachers talk about how fruitful it is teaching with the door open. It symbolizes an open community, allows for the hallways to be a part of the classroom experience, and challenges historical and outdated modes of schooling practices. I agree with all sentiments. However, maybe it is just me, but, it is hard teaching with the door open.

As I am writing this, my brother is playing music while entertaining a few friends and my father is gearing up for some NBA playoff action. Not only can I not be in the next room, I have to escape to the basement, close the door on the way down and any other preceding door that may yield off any indistinguishable sound waves.

I have to take these more than necessary actions just to concentrate. In grade 7, during a parent-teacher interview, my teacher all of a sudden turned into a pediatrician and told my mother that she thought I had attention deficit disorder and advised her to seek the nearest pharmacist as soon as possible. Thankfully, my mother quickly nulled her opinion and I eventually “matured” into a young man. I wonder if this may be the reason why I am personally not inclined to teach with an open door as much as I should. Perhaps Ms. Thomspon’s open door philosophy was the reason why she thought I was unable to focus.

Teaching with the door open is an example of the prescribed pedagogy that is filtered down through educational consultants and ministry offices that remains far removed from actual classroom experience. I am not saying that teaching with the door open is negative and doesn’t work. What I am implying here is that teachers must consider the reality of their situation whenever experimenting with new movements in education.

Slippery slope, indeed. Not everything new is bad. Not everything old is bad either. Teachers must be trusted with the craft they have worked hard on in order to make professional judgments for the sake of the children in the classroom. I know that my teaching falters when I become distracted by students in transition from one class to another or unexpected drop-in noise from outside my four walls. On paper, teaching with the door open sounds like a rosy, all-alleviating alternative that can be used to ease some of the ills that education currently sees itself faced up against. But will this undeniably work for every classroom, teacher-student dynamic, and school population? No. Teaching with the door open is a small and insignificant example of how pedagogical revisions forsake certain teachers. This is something that is not mandated, it is simply an effect of progressive minds thinking out loud for the sake of teachers who are always trying to better their craft. Unfortunately, there are many more explicit practices that are currently force-fed into the field of education. Education provides an open door for teachers to explore with new trends and progressive practices. But they should be allowed to close their door if it just doesn’t mesh with them.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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