By Kevin Matsunaga
“Good morning! How are you? Hello!”
My students looked at me with this weird look on their faces. A few said hello in return, but many walked by, puzzled by their new teacher in their new class in the new school year. However, I managed to get a few smiles here and there.
I did this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Period. I stood at the entrance to my classroom and greeted each student as he or she entered. I stood tall and smiled as I greeted each and every one of them. I resisted the urge to sit at my desk and check attendance or email-things I used to do during this three minute period.
As the days progressed, those weird looks and silent stares became, “Hello Mr. M! Good morning Mr. M! Hi Mr. M!” Students smiled back and some even gave me high fives. One student in particular taught me a special handshake that she and I did every day. Another student enjoyed my daily greeting so much, that he decided to take part; “I got this Mr. M!” and he proceeded to welcome classmates just as I did. This simple interaction with my students at the beginning of each class made me smile but more importantly, it made many of my students smile as well. We began each day on a positive note which often carried itself throughout the period.
This 3 minute routine became the best investment I made that year. Students started my class with a smile and a greeting, and that had a positive effect on their behavior over the course of the year. This is not to say that this 3 minute routine prevented all behavior problems, but it did make a noticeable difference in my students’ behavior and interaction in class. They knew that no matter what, Mr. M was going to be there at the door with a smile and that he was genuinely happy to see them. No matter what their day was like up to that point, when they got to my room they would be welcomed.
Now, as easy as this 3 minute investment is to make, it’s not always easy. As the year progresses there might be a few challenging students that cause you so much grief that, quite frankly, you don’t want to greet them. Consider though that your face may be the first smiling face they have seen all day. You could very well be the ONLY person to say hello to them that entire day. Those 3 minutes are sometimes hard to give up. Believe me, any teacher will tell you that there is A LOT that can be done during those 3 minutes that students file in. I’ve been known to make copies, prepare attendance, check my inbox for new emails, and still have time to spare before the bell rings.
However, if you can commit to using these 3 minutes to greet each and every student with a hello and a smile, you will see a noticeable change in the way your students behave and interact with you. You’ll build relationships with them which will help with classroom management. At the very least, you’ll bring a smile to every single student and show them that you really care.
Kevin Matsunaga is a digital media and yearbook teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Hawaii. He is also a Hope Street Group State Fellow for Hawaii and is an active member of the Student Television Network and PBS Hawaii’s Hiki No Program. Find him on Twitter@MrMedia808.