I live opposite a classroom. I say live, I mean that my office is opposite a classroom and that I’m in it for hours and hours on end. I have a running joke with a fellow early-riser about which of us slept overnight in the office. It’s only a matter of time… there’s already a blanket in there for days when the heating doesn’t work.

The classroom opposite is used mostly for teaching social sciences and management. I know what gets taught there, because it suddenly seems like colleagues – from economics, the business school, and my fellow sociologists – have started teaching with the door wide open. With my door closed, I hear the uncertain or forceful contributions made by students; I see the teachers who explain and explain and explain the simplest tasks. And I wonder why teaching, which used to be a private performance  produced by a particular group of teacher and students, is made visible in this way.

I’ve been in the classroom opposite my room and it’s not too hot, nor too cold. So it doesn’t seem like a Maslovian ‘hierarchy of needs’ argument would make sense. I think it’s something more sinister, related to the performance management of modern British university life.

Modern academics are encouraged and compelled at every turn to work harder, faster, better. We have argued and moaned about this, and we’ve worked through the weekend. But we’ve also taken to heart the constant pressure to be excellent. I think this open door teaching is about needing recognition of our daily effort, a sullen recognition that everything we do is up for judgement. The open classroom door makes visible our performance and screams ‘look, look, I’m doing it, and I’m doing it RIGHT.’ But colleagues, your class is putting me off my marking.