by Dr. Kelly Gfroerer and Dr. Jane Nelsen
Greeting students personally creates an immediate connection with each student.
- Greet each student at the door with “Good morning.”
- You might want to add a handshake or a high five.
- If you notice anything specific(such as a hairstyle change or a happy smile), mention it.
- Morning greetings could also be a job that rotates—a student standing with you to add his or her welcome to classmates.
- Students could also take turns at the end of the day saying, “Goodbye” or “Have a nice day.”
A teacher’s morning greeting can make a big difference in how their students approach the entire school day. Rudolf Dreikurs encouraged teachers not to miss this opportunity to connect with students as they enter the classroom.
Research supporting this tool shows that when teachers take time to greet students as students enter the classroom, the students’ on-task behavior increases. In one study teachers were instructed to greet their students at the door using the student’s name followed by one positive statement. No specific script was used so the interactions were genuine. Subsequent observations of students revealed more on task behavior following teacher greetings.(Allay & Pakurar, 2007). Using the power of personal connection motivates students.
Below are two success stories from Positive Discipline Tools for Teachers by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Gfroerer.
Tool in Action from Raleigh, North Carolina
Each morning, for about twenty minutes before the school day begins, I hold open the front door of the school for students and visitors. I have a chance to greet students with a smile and a look in the eyes. Sometimes we speak: “Good morning.” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” Sometimes we simply nod to each other. But holding the door is a regular event, one that is recalled by many alumni. It is time well spent for the principal to be out, viewing the front of the campus including the carpool lane. More and more, I have noticed that students hold the doors open for their peers and for guests. Occasionally students will hold the door open for me with a smile and awareness that they too enjoy being in the business of being kind and connecting.
—Thomas Humble, Ph.D., principal, Raleigh Charter High School
Tool in Action from Atlanta, Georgia
One of the highlights of my day is to stand at the door each morning and engage in a short dialogue with each of my students. Goodwill is contagious! It benefits the giver and the receiver. Whether it’s about last night’s baseball game, their favorite lunch item, new earrings, a cute hairstyle, or an infectious smile, each comment binds us as much more than a class. Greetings also spur conversation among each other, and the kids notice details about their classmates that might have gone unrecognized before seeing positive behavior modeled. Compliments, nods of agreement, and expressions of empathy start our morning. It is very powerful to see the children become connected and carry that spirit throughout the day.
—Patty Spall, first-grade teacher, St. Jude the Apostle Catholic School
Reference: Allday, R. A., and K. Pakurar. (2007). Effects of teacher greetings on student on-task behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 40, 317–320.
I teach first and second grade reading and am always searching for ways to incorporate the tenets of Positive Discipline into our time together. I have found greeting children to be a powerful tool for connection and to foster a sense of belonging. We all want to be recognized and named and taking a few moments to greet a child begins to accomplish that goal. This year I have added a new "job" for my students. When leaving the classroom to return to homerooms, one child is assigned to say good bye to each child. I encourage them to make eye contact and use the child's name when saying good bye! The children love having this job and I find it adds closure to our time together in reading class.