• Kristen Miller

guest blog: back to school - the importance of hello


My apologies for the delayed blog - getting back in the swing of things at the beginning of the year can be tough to manage. I'm finally getting into a groove and am super excited to announce that I have my first guest blog by Science teacher, Nicholas Russo.

I have never been the guy that steps up and introduces himself. I like to wait until other people extend their hand and introduce themselves or a mutual acquaintance does the job for us. You might be able to imagine my anxiety during the 10 months that I lived on the island of St Thomas where it was customary to greet everyone with “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good evening” or “good night.” It was seen as downright rude to not do this - especially if you were a “mainlander” who had relocated to the island. After a few months of this, I started to appreciate the fact that it got me out of my comfort zone by actually making is easier to start a conversation just by the sheer fact that you HAD to!

When I came back to California and started teaching I quickly went back to my more miserly ways, and had awkward conversations with people without actually acknowledging their existence in the first place (sometimes without even learning their name). At an inner-city school where I worked it was expected that teachers stood at their doors and greeted each and every student as they walked in. I had a panic attack when I learned of this during the new teacher orientation! Once I put it into practice, I began to love it. I found that making that connection at the door with a “hello” and a fist-bump had some serious advantages.

Let’s get something straight - this isn’t a “first day of school” thing - it’s every period, every day. Neither wind, nor rain, nor heat (we’re in California) can keep me from standing at my door to greet each student. Let me lay this out… I open my door when I am ready for students to enter and they are usually in some form of a “line” on my ramp or are arriving periodically. I smile and say, “Come on in!” As each student passes, I get a fist bump and say, “good morning,” or “welcome,” or “hello,” or “welcome back,” or “nice catch last night.” You get the idea. I stay at the door until the bell rings. I don’t let a kid get by without a fist bump at least. If they don’t say anything to me, or avert their eyes, or seem out of sorts, I make sure to check in with them during the class. The biggest benefits I’ve seen from this routine include:

  1. You really look at the students and start to actually recognize them and what they look like - not just where they sit.

  2. It gives you a chance to practice names - I challenge myself to greet them by name as soon as day 2 in order to start really knowing them and showing that I care.

  3. You can see what kind of a mood they are in.

  4. It gives you just a few extra seconds to get to know them - ask how the game/test/performance/club meeting went the other day.

  5. You might be the first - and possibly only - person to actually greet them that day.

  6. You become a presence on the campus outside of your room.

Consistently doing this with all of my students has allowed me to establish a strong and trusting relationship with them in a very short period of time. In this world of texting each other instead of talking to each other, human connection gets lost - saying hello opens the door to long-lasting, meaningful relationships with your students and for some gives them a reason to come to school every day.

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