The Problem

Normally when my door is closed to my office it means that I am in a session or in a conference.  For school counselors, this is typically the universal sign that we do not want to be disturbed.  Until recently, a closed door has provided the much needed privacy that I need in order to speak to my students and parents; however, this year has been an anomaly. I have had disruptions in the past, but normally within the first month of school everyone understands the rules in the guidance office about a closed door.  Last week, I had the strangest experience of interruptions by students, staff, and parents. Wave after wave I had numerous people walking past my secretary and coming to my office to see me.  And, when I say coming to see me, I mean opening my door and interrupting my session.

I think Stephanie sums it up here!

Instant Gratification

What could be the reason for this increase in disruptions this year?  I am not sure if I have a solid theory, but I think one reason could be our need for instant gratification that we are perpetuating in our society. Unfortunately, we live in a society that wants instant results and answers. Our need for quick service, fast food, and instant information started with generation X and has intensified with the Millennials. In an article by the Boston Globe, “Instant Gratification is Making Us Perpetually Impatient”, Christopher Muther found that the internet, businesses, banks, and service industries have made millions off our inability to wait for goods and services. 

Here is one of the best recent examples I can think of that of total disregard for others. Do you remember the the infamous interruption by Kanye West of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech?  Here this young lady is receiving a very important reward and in the middle of her speech her microphone is taken and Kanye goes on a rant.  


In fact, the Pew Institute conducted a study on instant gratification and found that people under the age of 35 often live hyper-connected lifestyles which produce negative effects like agitation and impatience. Pew researchers predict some potential societal changes that may occur because of our need for immediate gratification.  Some examples include: conversations will become shorter without the usual pleasantries, concerts and movies may become shorter, and people will settle for the first response to an answer rather than getting a second or third opinion.   In my own experience, I have seen a change in people in the last ten years. I have seen the growing impatience in customers waiting in line in the pharmacy, anger on the freeway from slowing down at a caution light, and the other day when I was on the plane a man started yelling at passengers because they were not moving quick enough for him to get off.  Indeed a very sobering thought about the future for our students and a problem for which I do not have a easy solution. So, you may be asking what has me writing this post on instant gratification? Well, I will share my experience with you.

An Unusual Day

I am in a really intense session with one of my students who is revealing to me a problem that she has never shared with anyone.  The suspense is building and she is finally getting the courage to tell me what has been bothering her when...knock, knock, knock.  I try to ignore the knock, but it continues.  I open the door and it is my peer helpers asking me how they should decorate my door for College Color Day.  I quickly answer their questions and go back to my session when…knock, knock, knock. I looked at my student and say to her, “Excuse me one more time.” It is a staff member wanting some data information for my principal who is in a data collection meeting at the county office.  I give her the information and go back to my chair.  Finally, we get to the problem and we are in an intense conversation when (you guessed it)…knock, knock, knock. The student and I look at each other as if Ashton is going to suddenly appear and I said to her that I will let them leave me a message on my door.

I am thinking…”Where’s Ashton?”

Two seconds late there is another knock on the door.  “Ughhhh!” I got up and opened the door.  This time it is a parent who got past my secretary.  “Oh, I didn’t know you had someone with you!” I explained that we are in a session and that I will be here for a little while, but she was welcome to wait.  Finally, our conversation continues.

As we continue to talk, the student begins to cry and process what is going on in her life. We are now deep in conversation when…knock, knock, knock.  By this time, the student and I look at each other and laugh.  “Go ahead and open the door Dr. Morton.” I looked at her with a sheepish grin and opened the door to see another group of peer helpers standing there with another question about the project.  At this point, I shake my head and ask them to come back when my door is open.  As I am outside my door, a couple of adults try to grab me to get some information. I quickly explain that I am in session and I need to get back to my student, but they continue talking to me.

My face at this point!!

Without totally losing my professional stance, I find my secretary and ask her to watch my door with her life. She grins and says, “I got you boss.” I walk calmly back to my office, put my “please do not disturb sign” on on my door, and close the door.  When I am in my office, I apologize to my student and tell her that I promise that we will not be bothered as I have someone guarding the door.  We both laugh and she looks at me and profoundly states, “I wonder how other kids feel when they are trying to tell you something serious and people keep knocking at your door. I should make you a REALLY big sign to put on your door.”  At that point, I felt like a heel! As a counselor, I am supposed to provide a safe, secure, non-disruptive environment for my students; instead, I felt like a failure.  At this point in my career, I realize the closed door is not enough to keep out disruptions and I need something that is going to make a real statement.

Making a Visual Change May Help!

I think that one of the problems in schools is that doors are full of notices, flyers, signs, and other cute posters that people often do not notice them.  
Try to find the Do Not Disturb Sign on this door…

Unfortunately, my door is contains a lot of cute posters, flyers, dates and so when students or parents come to my door, they may not notice my sign that says “Please Do Not Disturb” or “In Session“. So, I have decided to post some of my finds that may help people stop and take notice before they knock or try to enter my office. 

Initially, here is what I want to put on my door, but I think it may be too sarcastic.

In my shopping around, I found some signs that may work. From simple door hangers to professional door signs.

Check them out…

Here are some professional signs

Here are some colorful counselor-made signs

Other Sites for finding and making signs for your door…

Make Your Own Door Hanger-door hanger template.

I hope this will make a difference for me and maybe for you too.  If you have some great ideas, signs, or suggestions, please feel free to post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.