Saturday, May 21, 2011

Open Doors vs. Closed Doors

The other day I had the opportunity to work on a project with a colleague. We spent the morning working in the library at the school. We finished up the project a couple of minutes before lunch and as I headed back to my office I noticed that every classroom door I passed was closed. There was nothing special happening at the school that day, no particular reason the doors seemed to be closed. As I noticed this I wondered if most teachers in the school regularly teach with their doors closed. Then I began to wonder what, if anything, teaching with your door open or closed says about you as teacher? I starting to think this could be a could statistics project. Have students wander the halls daily, tallying the number of open doors vs. closed doors then have students perform so statistical analysis to see if there are any types of relationships between when doors are open versus when they are closed.

I personally teach with my door open. I do it for two reasons. The first is that I enjoy the flow of fresh air that results in having the door open. When I teach with my door closed it feels as though the air in the room becomes stale. I'm not sure if there is in fact any difference in the air quality but that's how it feels.

The second reason I teach with my door open is that I want my class to be an inviting place. I want teachers, administrators and even students to feel as though they can stop in at any time. I want teachers and administrators to stop by to see what we're up to or to share an interesting story or lesson. I want students to feel that they can stop by for extra help or to share their math struggles and successes. It's exciting when a senior student comes by for extra help or wants to share how well they did on a test or assignment when I'm teaching a junior class.

Do you, generally, teach with your door open or closed? How come?


  1. Overall I prefer to teach with the door open unless given an assessment and the noise distracts some of my students. I always open the windows too, but this year, my door has a mind of its own and when the windows are open, the door likes to close itself... even when I try and prop it open. It is quite frustrating but at time I just let it be.

  2. Great thoughts. I noticed a huge difference when I switched to a new high school last year.

    I taught at my first school for 8 years. At this school, the doors opened in, and automatically shut. That is, to keep it open, you had to use a door stop to prop it open. All doors were seemingly always closed, no matter the time of day. Rooms were personal domains, and you often felt like you were intruding upon one's property/territory when you entered. Cold and uninviting.

    Now, my new school is completely the opposite. Doors open outward, and do not automatically shut. When I arrive in the morning, almost all doors are open and you walk down the hall to a chorus of Good Mornings. While this doesn't affect student learning, it is simply a great start to my(and my colleagues') day. During the school day plenty of doors are open. I often walk by the Spanish class, stick my head in, and make a statement or two with the teacher or students in line with the lesson of the day. I close mine twice a day. First, when students walk down the hall for mid lunch study hall, and second, for my math models class, which has only 8 students, but these 8 are wanderers and would often be in the hall if the door was open.

    The only other observation I can make in regards to this is that doors do close because some teachers are loud, which I am at times guilty of, or because we are being very active and do not want to disturb the other classes, especially since all classroom doors are directly opposite another classroom door.

    Doors. A seemingly minute planning detail when building a school, yet small changes have made a pretty big difference in my teaching experience. And I could see even a few more changes to make it even better. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

  3. Escowhat, you're right it really is all about the minute details. There are so many of these minute details that can all add up to make a better (or possibly less effective) learning environment.

    I do close my door on occasion but it's for the reasons you mention. It only happens if I don't want to disturb others. Having teachers interact with each others' classes can be good for students and for teachers.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Your entry came up when I googled teaching with doors open or closed trying to evaluate that choice for myself. I tend to close my doors, but I want us to be able to focus on the content for the day. If I can hear too much going on in the hallway or other classrooms I find it distracting for myself personally and figure it must be worse for some of my students who are less interested in the chemistry concepts.

    When I'm not conducting class I like to leave my door open as much as possible to create an inviting environment. I suppose I don't necessary want people coming and going during class time, but I'm not sure I consider that bad.

    1. I agree that there can be many distractions in the hallway. When they occur I try to deal with the distraction or close the door. Dealing with the distraction can sometimes stop it from moving down the hall.

      Thanks for the comment.