Every student entering the door to a classroom deserves to be seen, to be acknowledged, greeted and celebrated. If the work about to be undertaken is important, so are the participants. This assumption should be common practice, not an exception to the rule. Students must believe they matter in order to be ready, and able, to learn. Be advised - implied regard is not sufficient. (“They know I care about them.”) Their esteem and degree of perceived value and respect must be communicated in a manner that is deliberate, authentic and sincere.
Here’s an excellent example of what I mean. My wife shared a charming video with me over the weekend that captures this perfectly.
A teacher has three symbols posted outside of her classroom, next to the door: a large red heart, a pair of green hands and a yellow musical G clef (commonly known as a “treble clef.”) As the students prepare to enter the room at the beginning of the day, the teacher is standing in the doorway, eager to see which symbol each child selects. If a child taps the red heart, he or she gets a hug from the teacher. If the green hands are selected, the teacher and the student share a double “high five” and “fist bump.” If the yellow clef sign is the preferred option, both the teacher and the child engage in a playful little wiggle dance. Regardless of which symbol a child selects, they are recognized. They experience an encounter that is comfortable to them, and probably addresses their need for the day. The teacher and her students share a smile through a routine that suggests “I’m so glad you are here, that we are here together!” I’m willing to bet any stressors experienced by either the students or their teacher as their respective days began, are instantly nullified. No parent nagging, sibling conflict or traffic snarl has any hope of overriding the joyful power of this daily ritual.
Okay. I can hear the “yah, but” arguments of naysayers. “We’ve been directed to not touch students.” Or “I’d be too embarrassed to do a dance.” And commonly, “I’m too busy getting ready for the day to have time for such nonsense.” With each of these arguments, and the multitude of other excuses that are equally plausible, the reader is missing the point. The power of this ritual is not in the specific actions the teacher has elected to share with her charges. It’s not the hugging, bumping or dancing that are important here. What matters is that she has decided to do something to acknowledge her students. She has made the bold, and critical, assessment that there can be no better way to begin each day, for herself and the children she serves, then making certain that each of them know she sees them and values them.
Students are preparing to enter our schools and classrooms in the coming days or weeks. I challenge everyone who has daily contact with kids to pause a moment and consider what they might do to acknowledge the children they encounter. In satisfying the directive in the first paragraph of this post, whatever you decide to do must be deliberate, authentic and sincere. So, given that, ask yourself what you are personally comfortable with, and in thinking about the kids themselves, what would they find meaningful and appropriate. Hugs, bumps and dancing can easily be replaced with handshakes, smiles and a simple “good morning.” The options are varied and wide open. The only unacceptable option is to decide to do nothing.
In delivering The Education Kids Deserve, children must know they are valued. They must hear, and feel, “I’m so glad you’re here!”