How Do You Enter And Leave A Room?

This is my sixth year teaching with Paula. There are many things that Paula’s taught me over the years, but one that stands out might not seem that significant to others, but it’s a choice that I’ve returned to often: there’s no need to announce yourself as you return to or leave from the classroom. While I’ve picked up this habit through my years teaching with Paula, and if anything, will just quietly mention to her that I’m coming or going, we never really chatted about why we make these choices. This changed on Thursday though after a classroom visit from our wonderful principal, Tracy.

Tracy’s come into our classroom a few times now, and every time that she does, it’s with the quietest of moves. She comes in low: getting herself low to the ground, so that she can easily connect with the students. For her, it’s not necessarily about chatting with every child, although she does make time to visit with all those that want to visit with her. She takes genuine interest in what kids are doing: not in a loud way to attract the attention of everyone, but in a quiet way, to show children that she’s there for them. There were so many things about Tracy’s recent visit that are worth blogging about …

  • From her kneeling on the floor and chatting with kids …
  • To her being vulnerable enough to learn from them and open enough to let children co-regulate her.
Listen to the video on the very last page of this post. You can hear Tracy and the kids in the background.

But when the day was over and Paula and I reflected on this visit, we kept returning to how Tracy came and left the classroom and why these choices mattered. This classroom visit wasn’t about her. It was about building relationships with students and connecting with us. She showed tremendous respect for their play by not interrupting it, but adding to it, which meant that when she left, the room was as calm as when she entered. The play and creating continued. Is this why Paula and I don’t announce our comings and goings to the class? As soon as we do,

  • the attention is taken away from what children are doing,
  • the volume in the classroom gets louder,
  • and the settled feeling disappears.

No longer is there that feeling of calm.

Speaking of calm, Tracy’s approach also made us feel better. Even after 20 years of teaching, principal walkthroughs usually make me want to throw up. I know, and believe, in the benefits of principals being in the classroom on a regular basis, but no matter how wonderful and supportive our administrators are, I always worry about what they’re going to see and what they’re going to think. Will they be able to see the same value in the play that we see? Tracy’s silent exit and entrance though, and her quiet moments with students, helped me fixate on her presence a little bit less. I could then continue playing with children, as I was moments before she arrived and for hours after she left. From Stuart Shanker, we know about the impact that an adult’s dysregulation can have on kids.

Did Tracy’s approach reduce our feelings of stress around her visit, resulting in a continued calm for the rest of the day?

Thanks to our principal for agreeing to let me blog about her visit and our learning and discussions that evolved from it. Quiet connections and unannounced comings and goings might not be new for Paula and I, but the further thinking behind the reasons for both happened thanks to Tracy. Whether you’re an educator, administrator, or parent, how do you enter and leave a room? What impact do you see on children? If it’s a home room, a school room, or both, I wonder if it’s in the quiet moments and smaller movements that we can show our interest in kids without overtaking their play. Is it about us or about them? A little time with Tracy has us thinking about this question more.


8 thoughts on “How Do You Enter And Leave A Room?

  1. I just want to thank you for your blogging and Instagram posts. You have had such a positive impact on my teaching and self reflection. I appreciate you sharing your teaching journey!

  2. This goes a step further when we fully embrace (as you two do beautifully) the flexibility the partnership affords us to “flow” through the day rather than start and stop at every bell. I know you and Paula do your best to prevent the imposed schedule of a school day from stifling students’ creative flow and the depth to which they can explore with large swaths of uninterrupted time. The stealthy comings and goings of the adults allows the children to carry on, and I believe it helps mitigate the dysregulation that can accompany a regimented and imposed timetable. It’s one of the things I believe K teams need to be intentional about when considering their flow of the day; minimizing transitions. So nice your admin knows this too!

    • Janet, thank you so much for your comment and for mentioning this! The minimal transitions make a huge difference for kids and for adults: I think decreasing dysregulation for both. You make me wonder how reducing these transitions — and being tethered to a bell — could work beyond kindergarten. I know that I tried to do this to some degree when teaching Grades 5 and 6, but rotary made it hard. Could this more fluid, child-led movement through the day be true beyond K? Maybe the topic for another post, but you make a great segue in your comment here.


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