Young people are no different from adults in that they want to feel welcomed and acknowledged. As an educator, you have the power to positively impact their day simply by greeting students at the door.
The practice of greeting a student at the door isn’t a particularly novel idea. Most of us probably remember a teacher who took the time to share a kind word or quick handshake as we entered a classroom. That authentic and consistent welcome set the tone and sent the message that each student was valuable.
Classroom Management Begins at the Door
Scientific research supports investing a few moments each day greeting each individual student at the door. Behavior analyst R. Allan Allday has studied how this simple action affects engagement and behavior in the classroom. These studies revealed an increase in student engagement from 45 percent to 72 percent and a reduction in the time it took for students to get on task.
Five Ways to Greet Students
- Use their name
A person’s name is quite possibly one of their most important possessions. Whether you use their given name or a nickname they prefer, calling someone by name creates a connection.
- Ask a question
A simple “how are you today?” is a good start. As you learn more about your students, you can vary your questions depending on their activities and interests.
- Make a request
Give your students a sense of purpose right from the beginning by giving them a task as they enter the room. This can be a whole-class activity such as preparing their desks for the day. Or, select a few students each day for helping roles, and give everyone an opportunity to be your class assistants as the year progresses.
- Offer up a high five, pat on the back, or another appropriate touch-based greeting
Special handshakes are all the buzz at some schools. Experiment with what works for you and your class. You might be surprised at your students’ creativity!
- Use nonverbal cues such as a head nod or thumbs up
Not everyone likes attention focused on them. Often a simple gesture, coupled with eye contact, lets a reluctant scholar know that you see them and value them. Sometimes directing a small, simple gesture toward a student can help you to see if they have something on their mind.
When you greet your students at the door, you are modeling the behaviors that you expect in the classroom. What’s more, you’re modeling adult behaviors expected in the larger community. And in the here and now, this greeting can also serve as an opportunity to intervene if you notice student behavior that’s a bit off.
Dos and Don’ts of Greeting Students
Greeting students at the door helps you to build relationships, which translates into a more productive classroom. However, your actions need to be delivered with a sincere and light intention. When students know that they are truly welcome in your classroom, they will respond in ways that may surprise you.
- Position yourself at or just inside your door
- Make it known that you are happy that they are there
- Provide positive direction/guidance for the class period
- Tell students what your expectations are for the day
- Give them a sense that this is a new day
- Lose sight of what’s happening in the hallway
- Bring up past transgressions
- Take student behavior personally
- Bring your personal concerns to class
- Be a drill sergeant
Building community starts at the classroom door and students who know what to expect in your classroom are more likely to be engaged learners.
PBIS and Classroom Management
Building rapport with your students is one of the basics of classroom management. This is where a PBIS framework can be beneficial. Having a clear set of expectations for classroom and schoolwide behavior will help you to guide your students in the development of social skills. One of the best ways to do this is to begin your day at the classroom door with a greeting for each of your students.
Teacher greetings can also act as a pre-corrective measure. Offering a moment to visually and verbally assess each student’s emotional state can be a positive way for teachers and students to interact in a preventative manner. Teachers modeling appropriate social communication skills with a handshake and a “Good morning,” help students to do the same.
Positive relationships, good classroom management, and PBIS can help to create a great school climate!