24 Feb

Teaching with the Door Open

But what if teachers embraced the idea of transparency as a form of activism, a way of shining light on what works in the classroom?

from “How Opening Up Classroom Doors Can Push Education Forward

The tax-paying public—my boss—needs to really start seeing what goes on in their employees classrooms. And now, with online courses and blended learning, we can offer them an invitation into our rooms.

Anyone and everyone is welcome. Come one, come all! In the name of enlightenment, in the name of transparency, in the name of accountability, we should welcome the world into our classrooms.

This is more important than the NSA spying scandal, isn’t it? Government leaders deserve some privacy. People responsible for teaching children shouldn’t need privacy.

Let’s start a conversation and allow the public to feel confident in what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it.

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To illustrate…


Reached out to a colleague at a different school, one who’s teaching the same course online as I am (relevant to re-iterate: Grade 12, university-prep English), and I offered to collaborate on a unit. I suggested a novel—a new novel—we could introduce to students.

The response I received?

Thanks for the offer, but I am not doing any novel studies or plays in my course. I am primarily focused on preparing them for a variety of writing, reading and analytical experiences for their post-secondary education. Do you want to collaborate on something else?

My initial feeling?

Utterly irresponsibly. Bordering on neglect.

Who doesn’t read novels? Hell, talk to a doctor: they read. They read medical journals…and…(surprise) novels!

CEOs of Forbes 500. (They write too.)

However, perhaps I’m wrong. Unless I open the doors and invite people in, I may never know that I’m not preparing students for university (university, after all, is in the title of the course, not post-secondary).

I think am preparing students for a “variety of writing, reading and analytical experiences” by reading, analyzing and writing about great texts. Plays, poetry and novels included.

What’s more, that’s what I believe the public expects for students in an English class for university-bound students. But let’s have that conversation.

Let’s not hide it behind a firewall. Let’s not hide behind an LMS. Let’s not hide what is taught and how it’s taught by hosting a teacher in a different school (or different board). Let’s allow parents to see what’s going on.

I could be wrong about the value of long-form reading, the vitality of literature, and the relevance of the classics.

Or not. Let’s talk…


Last semester I posted daily lessons, some handouts, and supplementary material to a public blog that parents could access. Not an LMS. Not a SharePoint. A WordPress account with no visibility restrictions.

When I monitored the usage of the site, it was minimal. The stats were discouraging and I, therefore, lost motivation to keep the site up-to-date. Two or three visitors every four or five days. Some not even in Canada!

Twice, in the past three weeks, I’ve heard that parents visited the site to regularly see what was going on. And I didn’t hear this from parents of students in my class! I’ve also heard, since, that the site is consulted by students I don’t teach but are in our school. That’s neat.

This alone made me wish I would have followed-through to the end of the semester. It makes me want to update the site and take it “live” again.

My point: it offered a taste of what I was doing in the classroom with students—and clearly there is a small audience of people who felt it worthy to talking about. Good or bad.

Let’s start opening the door; I’d love to know whether the parents of my students would prefer them to watch YouTube videos and read comic strips instead of exploring the depth of The Handmaid’s Tale. I-oh-so-sincerely-would. And I’d love to know why.

Open the doors. We can build bridges. Extend a hand.

Turn a new page.
(Maybe turn several hundred of them, instead of none.)

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