Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Open Classroom, Open Heart

So often we tend to do things for others in the secret hope of being repaid someday. "Think of all I did for him!" you may hear yourself say. Or you may hear others say, "What he's done to me is like a slap in the face!" But our motivation to serve others should be from a heart of love and compassion.

I always had an open classroom policy. I wanted parents to feel comfortable coming in to visit whenever it was convenient for them. Staying open carried a certain risk. I never knew who might enter.

And then Mrs. Williams came to visit.

Mary Williams was the homeschooling mom of five children. She was thinking about putting her oldest son back into public school - specifically into my class. She and Shane visited our class every day for two weeks. They said nothing. They did nothing. They just stayed for an hour or so and then smiled at me politely when they left. As much as I wanted to be open to them, I was terrified, wondering what they thought of my teaching and our class.

Later I discovered that the Williams family had visited two other fifth-grade classrooms, but with less frequency than they visited mine. Ultimately, Mrs. Williams decided against putting Shane back into public school. I was afraid it was because of something she saw in my class.

My principal called me into his office and handed me a letter. It was from Mrs. Williams.

"I decided that Shane is not ready to go back into [public] school. I saw, much to my delight, what an energetic, creative classroom looked like when we visited you. When and if we decide to send Shane or any of our other children back to school, we'll look for a teacher and a classroom like yours. Thank you for allowing us to invade your space."

Her letter not only brought relief, but a humble sense of being used for purposes not my own.

An open-door policy at your school should have little to do with the school's image and everything to do with your own reputation. An open heart opens doors without being asked and without expecting favor in return.

How open are you?