Do you see me? Do you know me? Will you grow me?
Shouldn’t answers to these three questions be the first experiences a child has at school every day? And shouldn’t the answer to each question be a resounding “yes”? Widely cited research claims that when teachers greet students by name at the classroom door with warmth, eye contact, and a smile (!), it leads to a 27 percent increase in academic engagement for the day. It is why the best teachers always prioritize a relationship with each student.
The first few minutes of the school day are often the most chaotic, as students transition from busy hallways, playgrounds, and homes. Without careful management, the disruptions flowing from such transitions can set the tone for the day. However, being greeted warmly by name can help students get focused and ready to learn. It’s a way of letting students know, “I am happy to see you! I am glad to be here! We are both going to learn something today! I will help you and you will help me!”
Rather than addressing disruptive behavior as it happens, proactive techniques – like greeting students at the door and modeling good behavior – reduce the occurrence of unwanted behavior, as teachers and students build a positive classroom culture (and relationship!) together. Teachers who spend time on the front end of the day to implement strategies such as positive greetings at the door eventually save more time on the back end of the day by spending less time reacting to problem behavior and more time accompanying students in their learning.
Instead of asking, “How can I fix misbehavior?” a prudent teacher always asks, “How can I create a classroom environment that discourages misbehavior in the first place?” How indeed?! By building healthy classroom relationships. While any student can get lost in a moment of carelessness and need a reminder, students who truly believe that their teachers like them, value them, and are interested in them as people simply do not persist in problematic behaviour.
In most cases, minor disruptions and disengagement have less to do with the student and more to do with factors that the teacher can control, such as teaching style, classroom organization, proactive strategies, and a consistent system of logical consequences for things that children have control over (i.e., their own behaviour!).
When I was a kid in elementary school, I was not always a perfect angel. No child ever is. However, when I saw my teachers’ smiling faces in the morning and felt that they wanted me to have great day, it inspired me to do my best for them and for me.
When I saw their smiles and heard my name and believed they were happy to see me, I knew they were going to help me be better, stronger, and maybe even a bit smarter.
By personally greeting me each morning, I knew they were going to help grow me (…which the best ones always do with kindness, candor, confidence – and a healthy dose of expectations!).
“Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day” – Dalai Lama
Ric Anderson, Head of School