So we have all seen those videos of those teachers that stand at their doors and do those sweet high fives and handshakes and funky greetings to welcome their students. They are viral because they are cute and they are unique and they signal “fun” and “caring.” But here’s the thing: I almost always see elementary teachers in those vids. I get it. Elementary school kids are cute. And heartwarming. But I know a ton of middle and high school teachers who greet their students at the door every single day as well. And this is noteworthy not just because it's cute (it is) or it signals “fun” (it does) but for a plethora of other reasons as well. It goes much deeper than the fun handshake or the high five. If you are a secondary teacher, your students need you at the door because:
They need you to help them transition. Seven hours of learning demands a lot mentally so when students are in the hall, they are busy socializing. It’s party time. When they come to you, they need to transition to learning time. That transition is difficult for some students. They sometimes bring the party into the classroom with them and have a hard time getting into learning mode. In fact, many in-class behavior issues can stem from issues that came up during party-time in the hallway. When you are there at your door, you diffuse the party. As an adult, you visually signal that transition. Your greeting lets them know you care about them, you see them, and gives them the signal that they are now entering your realm-the "Realm of Learning." (Feel free to call your classroom that. I did.).
It's a relationship builder. There is plenty of research and evidence out there that underscores how important it is to make connections and build relationships with our students in order to increase engagement and learning. And the quickest way to build those relationships is through consistent social conversations-as in "How's it going? Did you see the new Avengers movie? Heard you got a new job."Social stuff. These conversations are hard to build in when you see 30+kids 5 times a day. This is your chance to have a wee social interaction with each student-even if it's "Hey, so glad to see you. Welcome." That social greeting, where you say hello and use their name (correctly pronounced) conveys to them that you care about them. It lets them each know they are seen, they are welcome and they are valued.
It decreases unwanted behavior in your classroom and beyond. When there are adults in the hallway--even lingering in the liminal space between hallway and classroom, the incidences of unwanted behavior decrease. This is evidence-based. Adults in the hallway are important to climate and culture. And again, decreasing hallway behavior issues means the issues won’t follow the students into the classroom. Or into your neighbor's classroom.
It's sets the tone for that class. This is your first point of contact with your student and sets the tone for the rest of the time you have those students. I taught next door to a woman who greeted students (after the bell rang) with things like "Don't sit there" and "Put that down" and "You're too loud." It was painful to listen to. The students' first point of contact with her was negative and you can imagine the tone that set. I listened to her wrestle with classroom management quite often. And the daily struggle made her feel a bit burned out. Which meant she hid in her office between classes and then went in after the bell and greeted students negatively. Which contributed to her negative environment. Which burned her out. You see where I'm going with this. Please don't be that lady. She was miserable.
It creates an intentional positive interaction with an adult. I actually had a teacher tell me she got a letter from a student once thanking her for her daily at-the-door greeting because some days that was the first time an adult talked directly to her all day. And that was the last hour of the day! Whaaat? This is heartbreaking. If that is the only reason you greet students at the door--so they can have a positive interaction with an adult--that is actually enough.
If you are having trouble getting to your door between classes:
1. Make a list of reasons why and then figure out how to put in some systems to address those reasons. Some examples:
Barrier: Students ask you questions between classes
Possible Solution: Invite them to walk with you to the door and talk to there or set up a specific time during class for questions.
Barrier: "I need to get my next class ready."
Possible Solutions: Have student helpers assigned to get materials out; use the last few minutes of your class while students do exit slips to get your next class ready; have your agenda and bell work posted and up front.
2. Find out who in your building is stellar at greeting students at the door and take some videos so they can go viral. But then ask them for some troubleshooting help.
Invest some time into this because greeting every student at your door will make a huge difference not only for your own classroom culture but for your individual students.