Using the front door to enter my house is a great experience. It was designed and intended to be the place that people use to enter. It’s decorated nicely inside the front door. It’s welcoming. It’s warm and inviting. It provides a well-defined threshold between the outside world and our home. However, most times we enter through the garage. Through the garage door you walk into the laundry room, then into the back corner of the kitchen. The garage blurs that threshold between house and outdoors.
In Florida today, most schools have exterior hallways, large fences or gates surrounding the property, and common areas outside where students wait before school starts. Very often, parent drop-off and the bus loop have students entering through a side entrance or gate, blurring the lines between getting to school and arriving at school. Students might be at school for a half hour or more before they actually step inside their classroom. Many students never use the intended entrance to the school.
In this way, we rely heavily on the teacher to be greeting students at the door once class begins so that there is a well-defined start to school. For some students (and staff), getting to school each day is already a struggle and having a well-defined start or an intended entrance allows there to be a threshold between the outside world and the school. This doesn’t mean that people shed their identities at the door. This doesn’t mean that who you are outside the walls is different than who you are inside the walls. All schools have an underlying culture. In a school where the school leaders and staff have worked hard to foster a caring and learning culture, it is important for people to feel welcome. Their life outside may have a lot of unknowns and may not be safe. Feeling the threshold between outside and the school becomes vital to these students. If you are thinking, we don’t have any students like that- you are wrong. Every school in every part of the world has students who struggle, who have a painful life outside of school. Make sure you are setting a threshold; make sure you have a welcoming, intended entrance for your students, even if they are entering through the garage.