“I have an open door policy.”
It sounds great, right? Who could argue with it? But you have to ask a very important question: who isn’t coming in?
As educators, we can convince ourselves that an open door policy is working because kids are coming in. I had a teacher say to me recently that her policy of working with kids who came for extra help was working because there were always kids coming to her for extra help. I asked her about a student who was struggling, and she told me that he never came for extra help. I asked her, “Do you ever ask him to come?”
“I tell all the kids about extra help every day,” was the answer.
Some students need to be invited to come for extra help. Some students need to be told that the teacher wants to see them. That individualized attention where a student feels the personal investment of a teacher is invaluable.
And more than the personal, there’s a sociopolitical aspect to this as well. Often times, children come to school with the ghosts of the experiences their parents had in school. So there are reasons beyond the obvious – sometimes – for why a child may not come for extra help. They may not trust the teacher. They may view that help as “punishment.” They may have been taught that they shouldn’t “need” help. They might just want to run around at recess. There are any number of reasons that might keep a child from walking through that blanket-policy open door.
So when we examine our policies – especially those that center around how we make sure that every student gets the support they need – we have to not be satisfied with inviting everyone in. We have to understand that caring for children means making the time to make the individual invitation as well – to make sure each and all children know that we are there for them.