Things I Know 48 of 365: It’s okay to leave the classroom

Today’s the day.

– Joan Cusack, as Sheila Jackson in Shameless

I once heard people who live in apartments are less psychologically sound than those who live in houses and condominiums where they can walk out their front doors and be outside. Something about instantaneous access to the outside world, an immediate exit, makes things ok in their brains.

After years of apartment living, I live in a rowhome now. I think there’s something to the claim.

All my evidence is anecdotal, but my theory is the same is true for classrooms.

Forget the argument that teaching with your door open opens a literal gateway to collaboration and being a part of your larger school community. Ignore the touted benefits of talking to those around you. I’m claiming here and now, that stepping outside your classroom is good for your brain.

We’re having what I am taking to be a false positive on Spring’s arrival in Philadelphia right now. Today’s high was in the mid-60s. I took a walk to get my lunch.

I taught better the rest of the day.

My colleague Matt Kay took it a step further. He took his last period class down the street to a park near the school, and they read. Then, he circulated among their literary clumps and peppered them with questions for discussion.

Yeah, yeah, it was good for the kids.

But, I saw Matt walking down the hall after he’d entered the school. The man was glowing. He’d dared to step outside the classroom, outside the school, and it showed on his face that he was all the better for it.

Too often, I meet teachers who see the hallways outside their classrooms as Tron-like rails leading them perhaps to the office but definitely home.

They shouldn’t.

Our classrooms are connected. Beyond anything electronic. Our classrooms are physically connected. The world connects not just virtually, but physically as well.

My friend Jeff teaches middle school students history. Today, they were squirrelly (as is their wont). He took them on a field trip – a walk around the neighborhood. When he got back, he was a better teacher. What he knew was good for his students turned out to be good for him.

I’m not suggesting all teachers need to take their students for a walk (it’s not a terrible idea).

Tomorrow, I’m going to eat my lunch outside, maybe with another teacher. You should too. If it’s too cold, go out to a restaurant that has cloth napkins. Step outside.

Crazy cat ladies die in apartment, not houses or condos (I did a Google News search). Let’s not be the crazy cat ladies of our schools.

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