Have you ever heard a teacher say something like “Yeah, you know administrators make all these rules and policies, then I close my door and do whatever I think is best”?
Ever heard that? Or something that basically means the same thing?
There’s a lot of different directions that could take, of course, with that as a starting point, but I want to focus on “closing the doors”.
Let’s look at this at several levels. Often “closing the doors” represents an attitude as much as it describes a physical state-of-being. “Closed doors” implies that we don’t want people seeing us do what we do. (Or perhaps, at least, only certain people.)
But it also creates risk. “Closed door” teachers often don’t see their classroom practice compared to other teachers. This stifles innovation, collaboration, public relations and other essential components of schools in search of consistent improvement.
It follows, then, that one good first step toward improving innovation, collaboration and public relations in a school is to open the doors. Let teachers explore each others work, let the community see what goes on. And not just see, but explore, participate, and engage.
Yesterday I saw that attitude on display at Cavanuagh STEAM in Lansing, MI (follow them on Twitter @CavanaughSTEAM ).
School hasn’t started yet. It begins the Tuesday after Labor Day, but already the doors were open, the teachers were ready to give the community a chance to explore their classrooms. Parents were given a chance help shape the direction of the projects their students will be completing and provide opportunities for authentic audiences for student work. One kindergarten teacher had a small block-based maker activity ready for the incoming kindergartners. She reminded me as I chatted with her prior to the event that this was many of her students’ first school experience. She clearly wanted to make a good first impression.
The event, “Family STEAM night” gets repeated 4 times per year. After the first one, subsequent evenings have a strong emphasis on showcasing excellent student work and giving each teacher a chance to highlight some of the outstanding experiences their students explore in the classrooms.
Their doors are open and they invite the community to come in and join them. Sadly, I had to leave before I got to see what it looks like when they do. I look forward to the next Family STEAM night when I can see the halls filled with parents and students getting to see first hand what it means to be a student at @CavanaughSTEAM.