In my school, the first bell of the day rings at 8:05, and the first class begins at 8:10. Breakfast begins around 7:30, and most students are in and around the cafeteria or milling around the halls by 7:45. Our administrators are usually in the halls around 7:50, and a few teachers are out, keeping an eye on the students. However, most teachers are in their rooms, doors locked, prepping for the day. Many of our teachers have no prep hour, so their time before school is precious to them.
But the students, for those 20 minutes, don’t really have a place to be.
So my door: it’s open.
It was slow at first. A few 7th graders popped their heads in when they arrived, saying hi and talking for a few minutes before they went to the cafeteria to wait for their friends to arrive.
Then they stayed in my room for a little bit longer, and their friends met them in my room before they went off to eat breakfast.
After all, my door: it’s open.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been moving in my classroom library. This has required some student help schlepping boxes into the room in the morning. It’s been easy to ask a few students to come out to my car and help out. After all, they were in the room to begin with, and they grabbed some friends from the halls on the way out.
I barely even had to ask for help. After all, my door: it’s open.
Last week, even more students have been coming in my room before school starts. They help out: changing the dates on my board and straightening up the desks. Some have taken it upon themselves to take the chairs down from the night before.
And then the magic started happening. The 7th grade girls have decided to make my room their place to hang out. A couple boys tried to come in, and they said “No boys allowed!” To which I reminded them that I’m a boy, and I’m also in charge of my classroom, and they cannot ban anyone. So the boys came in. And they started talking. And, of course, I gave my input where it was appropriate. The students have come to respect me in ways other than as their math teacher.
Here’s the best part: while the students were talking in my room which at that point was set up for the day (despite that I hadn’t had to lift a finger), some students came by my desk to let me know of some things going on in their lives. I’ll respect their privacy here and not share the details, but it’s not things that would just come out during class. The students needed a safe zone. And now I have a greater rapport with them than I ever could have otherwise. I teach 40+ of them at once, which doesn’t leave a lot of space for building that student-teacher relationship. But I know that tomorrow, I will have bands to talk about with some students, parents to talk about with some students, and a safe place to extend to all students.
And that’s why my door: it’s open.