Open the Door


“Good morning.” “Hello.” “Thanks.” “You’re welcome.” “Have some fun today.” Those are usually the first words I hear or say at school each day. These exchanges set the tone pretty well for what will follow when the bells start ringing. Throw in the fact that as I walk through the parking lot toward the school, I’m facing the East—the direction from which so many good things come—and the sunrise colors provide a vibrant backdrop to the school building.

Each morning as I arrive at school, I do the same thing: hold open the door for any students or teachers walking in at the same time. This is my daily metaphorical reminder that my job is to open doors. It’s also a reminder to be humble and positive, to approach this job as one who serves. Sure, I have my moments and phases of negativity and cynicism but not at the start of the day.

Humility can be hard to remember because teachers have a certain amount of institutional power. Those kids pretty much have to do what we say, and they have to live a long time with the results of our work. With that power comes, of course, responsibility and accountability. Beyond that though, we need to use our institutional authority and power in positive ways, mostly through being the best role models we can be. Humility is a better quality to model than arrogance. That’s only common sense: What do we want to see reflected back at us from our students? I’ll take humility over arrogance any day.

I’d also rather see courtesy than sullenness. Caring rather than apathy. Connection rather than disconnection. The very best way for teachers to see qualities like these in their students and colleagues is to show them ourselves. Simply expecting it isn’t enough.

As writing teachers, we frequently say, “Show more than tell.” That’s pretty good life advice too.

Good morning. Have some fun today.

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