We’ve all had an administrator say that their door is always open, only to find out it was just something they said.
Their door is literally closed nearly every time you walk through the office.
Perhaps their door is always open, but they are never in there, so what good is it?
Or maybe their door is always open, but the same people are always in there, and you’re not part of the “in” crowd.
Once you finally get time with them, you catch them checking their smartwatch every two minutes.
Even worse, you get an audience with them only to find out that what you shared in confidence has been shared with others, or worse, used against you.
What does it mean to have an open door policy?
There are many different types of leaders. Some are naturally gregarious and approachable. Some are distant and cold. And, there are countless variations between those two extremes.
And for every type of leader, there are people who will love their style and just as many who will hate it.
Regardless of personality type, a leader must be someone who their constituents can trust. Trust must be built. Trust must be earned. But, trust must also be reciprocated.
An open door is an attitude, a mindset. It’s not just a physical opening to an office space.
An administrator with an open door wants to hear the concerns of their teachers, understands that sometimes they just need to vent and other times they genuinely need help finding a solution.
The bigger the campus, the more challenging this can be, but hopefully a bigger campus means that there will be more leadership positions. The beauty in this is that there are more personalities from which to choose.
Perhaps a teacher doesn’t quite mesh with their principal or their assigned administrator; there is no reason why they cannot find support and establish a rapport with another leader, as well.
They truly listen and can make time when it is needed. They know a school is people, not a building, and realize that the people in the building are important. If teachers don’t want to be there, then the students won’t want to be there.
Some may say that they are afraid of losing the authority they need in order to fulfill their leadership responsibilities. But, we would argue that teachers will be more likely to take constructive criticism and feedback from someone they respect and who they know respects them. And, teachers are more likely to do what’s asked of them in a healthy and supportive work environment.
One of our writers likes to tell his teachers (along with students and parents) that his office is a safe place to cuss and cry. Many take him up on this. He’s tried to create a welcoming space that teachers feel comfortable in. He leaves his door open, even when he’s not in it and has even started finding people in his office when he returns, either just taking a moment to get away from it all in a safe space or even talking to another teacher.
Another administrator that we are aware of purchased a mobile desk workstation in order to be more accessible to students and teachers alike. She makes it a point to “office” at various locations throughout the building. She is able to be reached by radio or cell phone if the front office needs her, and her physical office is available whenever confidentiality is necessary. This has enabled her to really get to know her students and know the pulse of the school
The restrictions of social distancing and virtual learning have made accessibility more challenging, but if you make it a priority, you can find ways to make it happen. Schedule a weekly virtual coffee talk or happy hour (nonalcoholic, of course) to provide opportunities for casual conversation. You may be requiring your teachers to have set, virtual office hours for tutoring; considering doing the same so teachers can drop into your Zoom or Meet to ask questions or voice concerns.
If your teachers are teaching virtually but still working from their classrooms, make it a point to walk the campus regularly and check on them. Many are struggling without having the energy of students in the classrooms. Popping in will show them you care and give them an opportunity to ask questions. And, while you’re in there, ask if you can say hi to the students. This willingness to be present and be involved will make them more comfortable coming into your space, as well.