Many school districts around the country are already up and running for the 19-20 school year, but in Minnesota, where the bulk of my teaching career was spent, Labor Day and the State Fair mark the end of the summer and the beginning of the school year. The fair depends on youth to attend and to work at it, so schools hold off starting until after Labor Day, which is the last day of the Great State Get Together. So, in honor of my MN teacher friends meeting their students this week, this one’s for you!
One of the simple ways you can build relationships with your students is to greet them as they enter your world (the bus, school building, classroom, cafeteria, etc). Speaking (or if you don’t recognize them, asking) their name, giving them eye contact and sharing some skin to communicate that you are happy to see them and glad for the chance to spend a school year together is an important, but often overlooked ritual. But don’t just do it the first day. Repeat this every.single.day.
Several years ago I was reminded of the importance of greeting your students while reading part of an essay written by a high school sophomore. During his freshman year, his mom moved out of the house. Writing about the beginning of his sophomore year he penned,
“School started and right away it was bad again. So bad that I failed 3 out of the 4 classes in the first quarter. I don’t know why I wasn’t getting my work done like I should have been. I guess I just wasn’t motivated to do it. I had concluded that my life was metaphorically over. By that, I mean I had given up all hope on being what I had once dreamt about in my childhood, happy. Many people don’t know what it is like to wake up every morning and have nothing to look forward to. I couldn’t wake up and say goodbye to my mom anymore, my dad was never up until after I left, so I couldn’t say anything to him…”
You might be the only person who smiles at, or high fives a student who is struggling to be at school today and that simple act of kindness repeated every day might be the biggest motivator for him/her to return tomorrow.