Recently, I saw a social media post about the importance of greeting students each morning. I stopped for a minute to think about this, as a principal, I take it for granted that everyone begins their day with a positive attitude and is greeting students. Now, I know this is pretty naive of me to think this…and yes, I really do know better. However, this is one of the MOST important things a teacher can do each day!
Since I became a teacher, I found myself ALWAYS waiting at the door for my students to arrive. My first year of teaching in Houston was in a portable building, so by the time they all got into class, my makeup had melted down my face and I needed a shower, but I forced myself to do this ritual each and every day! Why? I was able to check the pulse of my students and ensure they knew that I was there for them, ready for a great day, no matter what!
As a principal, I find I do the exact same thing! Each morning I arrive on campus early to ensure that I have everything ready for the day, and then I head out into the building. I have a route I always follow…start at the front entrance to ensure bus riders enter the building calm…walk through each grade level hallway to ensure staff members are on duty, students see me and greet me, and greeting all staff members entering the building. I then make a second pass through the building to ensure later arrivals are seeing me, greeting me, and on duty. I carry my coffee and on Fridays I bring my newest or favorite picture book so I can read to students while they wait to enter their classrooms.
As I continue to think about this morning routine, I remember how many people ask me how I can do this each day with a smile on my face…no matter what my mood! It’s simple…one, I love what I do so I enjoy seeing students and staff walk in each morning ready to learn…and two, I am very good at following my own advice, which is “fake it until you make it”…yes, even one who loves their job has to do this every once in a while!
So, as I have navigated my way through this 20+ year career in education, here are the reasons I believe this is so beneficial.
- I believe that how your first moment in an experience begins is how your day will continue. My goal for every student is that they can walk in my room (or building) knowing that someone cares about them. It is simple to begin with a good morning…doesn’t take much effort to say that at all…but can make someone’s day.
- Students need to learn social graces. I have lead 3 schools in my career and found the same thing as I worked to help every one of these schools improve…students (well, being honest, people) do not just “know” how to greet each other! I had to teach most of the students how to walk in, look at someone, and say good morning! Then I have to consistently model this so that it becomes our culture. It is funny how my family (not in education) do not understand that this is something we teach, as they just assume everyone knows…
- I also incorporate how to shake a hand. This is BIG! One of my biggest pet-peeves…yes, I am pretty intense…is when you go to shake someone’s hand and they either don’t know how to do it correctly or they do it with the lightest grip you have ever seen. NOT my students! I believe in first impressions and handshakes will take you far…no matter what your economic status or background…and we must teach our students to have a GOOD one!
- The first greeting each morning can tell you, the teacher, many things. With the exception of one school I worked in, I have always worked in high poverty, title one schools. And, being honest again, these are communities where home life for our students is not always what we have in our own homes. Students come to school many mornings with a lot of baggage from home. Students walk into the school and you may be the only person who has communicated with them since they left you yesterday. I don’t think I need to say this, but this first moment of the day is BIG…
As I am finishing my third year on my current campus, I have found that every one of my teachers who take time each day to meet their students at the door and greet them have the highest performing classes with the lowest incidences of office referrals. Yes, this may be coincidence…but maybe not! I have also found that if I am not there in the mornings (those dreaded principal meeting days), students comment on how they missed seeing me when I return. I also know…as I watch my students interact with each other each morning, they have started greeting each other…and this did not happen the day I walked into this building! Something as simple as “good morning” can have such an impact on your day, your students’ day, and the world…and we don’t even realize it!
Sparkle on, my friends!