No Closed Doors, Just Open Spaces

Before I begin, I want you to know that I hear you rapping the title of this post to the line in Bust a Move by Young MC, “No fine girls, just ugly faces…”
Ok, I know that’s bad, but stick with me! There is an actual post coming…

I was rereading a post from Kyle Pace where he talked about what a great teacher his mom was to many students and especially to him. It’s a great post! (You should go read it.) In it, he mentioned how his mom worked so well with her colleagues to bring about wonderful learning experiences. In one paragraph, he wrote:

This is just a sampling of the great things my mom did with her students.  This all required extensive interdisciplinary collaboration with her teammates. No closed doors or islands here! Teachers working together to do what’s best for kids and bringing an engaging team approach to everything that they did. Is it just me or has this mantra of teaching dwindled? Why do some not want to do this? It will make your job easier people and your students are the ultimate winners!

I’ve been that closed door teacher.  In my first school, it was kind of what you just did.  It wasn’t frowned upon, it just happened.  Sure, I talked with my teammates and we collaborated on things, but when it was teaching time – Slam, the door was closed.

I also have worked in a school where a closed door was a safe haven.  Get rid of the noise, ignore those in the halls, discourage the wandering principal from coming in and please, don’t listen to me teach, don’t judge me – just let me do my thing.  Not the most collegial place.

Now, I work in a modified open concept school.  I have no doors to close, just large, open entrances to all corners of my room.  My walls are cardboard thin (the walls that I have) and on one side, I have tried to create a wall with bookshelves.  (If you are interested in seeing my room on You Tube, please visit by clicking here.)

So, do I like this?  It definitely has its downfalls.  The noise is one thing.  I hear everything my neighbors do and they hear me.  If I want to listen to music with my students, I need to schedule it carefully so that it doesn’t interfere with my neighbor’s schedule.  As much as we can, we schedule tests at the same time as well as group work, snack and many other activities throughout the day.

But that brings me to my main point: there is a huge sense of collaboration and collegiality when you do not have doors.  You are forced to work together and make things happen.  You see other teachers more often and, well, you just can’t lock yourself away from the rest of the school.  Everyone can hear you and you can hear all.

My journey thus far as a teacher has led this to be one thing, that, believe it or not, I’ve ended up really enjoying at the Cashman School in Amesbury.  We can yell to each other for a quick meeting, gathering at the intersection of our rooms or even have a full out conversation from our desks 40 feet away from each other.

Don’t get me wrong here – if given the opportunity, I just may welcome some solid walls and maybe a door (or even better a window) in my room, but if we are to see a silver lining here, easy collaboration with my teammates is definitely it!

So remember, “Bust a move” on that classroom door of yours and keep it open.  No teacher should feel isolated in the confines of their four walls.  “If you want it, you got it. Uh, You want it, baby you got it!”

I know, it’s a stretch… but I hope you enjoyed the song today! 😉  ~EMP

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. Al says:

    So what you are saying is that the whole open/closed door debate is a fad which should go away because open classrooms are not practical because of the noise restrictions. Closing your door to teach does not mean anything bad is happening there, just that you have a safe environment for your children to learn without distractions.

    Open doors is a metaphor for collaboration with your teammates and administrators as well as parents, transporting it to its literal meaning is a misunderstanding, rather than something to be proud of.

    • Hi Al,

      Open concept sure can be difficult and distracting to teachers and students, but I guess in a way, you just get used to it. It’s my current reality. And you’re right, closing your door should not imply anything negative. It should be ok to create a place where kids can focus in quiet or become involved with something that makes noise. Then, the closed door is just a courtesy to the others around you.

      In what kind of atmosphere do you work?

      • Al says:

        Where I work they let me close my door, I have a very sound proof room (my tiniest voice is booming), but my kids normally love me and there are often distractions from outside the room if I leave the door open (kindergarten and other grades coming by). So I consider it improper of other people to judge me for the sole reason I close my door, even when there are a lot of good teachers that do too 🙁

        Thank you!

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