Prior to now, lecturers might “shut the door and train.” Here is why they cannot anymore.
When I first started teaching, I was told about a maxim that will be described in this article. It’s about how the best part of teaching—the part that counts—takes place in the classroom. The school politics, the bureaucracy, the parents, all the miserable parts that had to do with teaching happened outside. The trick is remembering the breakup, they told me. remember your work Forget the noise.
This phrase was frequently uttered among teachers: “Just close your door and teach.”
It is a great feeling. Concentrate on the most beautiful part of our job. The learning that happens when your classroom is built on trust, kindness and respect. The magic of seeing a student finally “get it”. The belly laughs and funny inside jokes. Protect that and you can ignore all the nonsense out there.
Here’s the problem…
Teachers can’t do that anymore.
Whether in the name of “parental rights,” justified by fearful helicopter training, or driven by a greed to cash in on another standardized test, the toxic garbage that was once out there now contaminates what was once a sacred place for so many of us. We used to be able to tune out the political mud, the corrupt school boards, and the manic parents, but we can’t “shut the door” once these things make their way.
We cannot “close the door” on orders to empty our library shelves.
We cannot “close the door” to act as a human shield for our students.
We cannot “close the door” on a global pandemic that is still raging in our schools.
We cannot “close the door” on students who are denied the support they need when budget cuts result in large class sizes, appalling advisor-to-student ratios, and nowhere near enough emotional and behavioral support professionals.
We cannot “close the door” on parents who treat teachers as customer service agents who exist to gratify their whims rather than provide a professional service.
We cannot “close up” the lack of trust in schools as institutions.
We cannot “close the door” on the meager funding that aggravates this lack of faith and misrepresents it as a teacher problem.
We cannot “close the door” on a reality in which our country’s most precious people – children – are entrusted to us, while at the same time being demonized as immoral overlords; where we are required to sacrifice our lives for the students and still have to beg for school supplies every August; where we are heroes when we work ourselves to death and selfish ungrateful when we ask for better.
When our leaders don’t set boundaries for parents and school boards, don’t adequately fund schools, raise teachers’ salaries to create a more attractive profession, and make the other decisions needed to prioritize our education system, let me be clear: we owe them nothing. For too long they have taken advantage of our unpaid labor and kindness to fill in the blanks they intentionally leave.
I closed my own classroom door last May. I miss the sacred space I’ve created for over a decade, but not at the price it cost my family and I.
If you can no longer separate what’s outside your classroom and the joy in it, maybe you should too.
Maybe it’s time we all did.
What do you think – is it still possible to “shut the door and teach”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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