by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
How to Start Class Every Day
Making Your Students Feel Seen
Greeting students will have the most immediate impact on your day or each class period. A sincere greeting establishes a positive climate for the classroom. You experience greeting people in daily life. You are greeted when you visit someone’s home or business, board an airplane, enter a place of worship, or just see a friend. A greeting is the first step in making a connection.
In the business world, the importance of a greeting is understood. It positively effects the actions of those greeted. When you walk into a restaurant, you are immediately greeted by a confident, smiling host or hostess. The way you are greeted is a large factor in the art of hospitality, which is how restaurants make their profit. Many restaurants spend much time training their staff on this very topic. A good host will make you feel welcomed, at ease, and taken care of with a smile and few simple words. Within your first few seconds in the restaurant, you are in a relaxed and pleasant mood.
Your wait person welcomes you and takes care of your needs. Your perception of this greeting will largely influence the amount of your tip. Even if the kitchen botches your order, if you perceive that your wait person was a “nice” person, your tip will still be generous.
It makes sense that greetings would apply in your classroom. Welcome your students every day. Honor and acknowledge their presence from the moment they step through the door.
It Begins at the Door
At many schools and in many classrooms, discipline is not a factor, bullying does not exist, and more importantly, students are on task and doing their classroom work. It all begins at the door, the perfect way to start a class.
This is the doorway of Karen Rogers, a high school teacher in Olathe, Kansas. Notice how her doorway message greets the students before they even enter the classroom.
At the Staten Island School of Civic Leadership (SISCL) in New York, when the K-2 students reach their classroom door, they find a teacher and a student waiting to greet them. The students are greeted by a classmate and their teacher each day.
Loreta Anderson, one of the kindergarten teachers, explains that at the beginning of every school year, the primary teachers look for students who would like to be “Greeter Leaders” for the month. This responsibility works well with the school’s civic leadership culture.
The teachers model the “greeter leader procedure” for the children. They teach the procedure with the teacher shaking hands with the greeter leaders and welcoming them to school. The children then demonstrate the procedure back to the teacher, so that they can check for understanding and tweaking during the first days of school.
Then, they guide two students to stand by the classroom door and offer their right hand to shake the hand of each classmate while saying, “Good Morning,” as the classmates enter the classroom.
The student being greeted responds, “Good Morning,” in return.
This routine is established early and continues throughout the school year with new “greeter leaders” rotating each week or month. This is done to validate students' abilities to succeed as leaders. Since this procedure is carried on each successive school year, the children develop a sense of continuity within a consistent environment.
The Research Behind Greeting
R. Allan Allday, University of Kentucky, did two studies (reported in Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2007 and 2011) based on the door greeter technique he read about in The First Days of School:
Effects of teacher greeting on student on-task behavior
Effects of teacher greeting to increase speed to on-task engagement
In both studies, observers clocked a select group of students over a period of time in a class period to see if they were on task or off task.
In the classroom where the teacher greeted the students at the door, there was an increase in student engagement from 45 percent to 72 percent. This was recorded when the students worked on the assignment and presented no discipline problems.
In the second study, students got on task faster when they were greeted at the door, in comparison to the control class that was not greeted.
Allan says that in the classroom management class he teaches at the university, his primary focus is on changing teacher behavior, because teacher behavior (the hardest behavior to change in a classroom) impacts student behavior.
The Belief to Succeed
Brockton High School has 4,200 students and is the largest high school in Massachusetts and one of the largest in the nation. The campus has nine buildings and is the size of an aircraft carrier, yet the students feel comfortable at this high school because they are welcomed each morning.
Susan Szachowicz, the principal, together with a teacher, greet the students each morning as they come through one of the four entrances to the school. She has been doing this every day for years and has watched the school, declared by the Boston Globe as one of the worst performing academic high schools with a 33 percent dropout rate, transform into a nationally-celebrated high school with a graduation rate of 97 percent.
At one time, Brockton had a culture that believed that every student had a right to fail, and fail they did. Today, there is a culture of consistency that says every student has a right to succeed. And, that message is delivered to the students each day they walk through the doors of the school and are greeted.
Every Classroom, Every Year
At A. B. Combs School in Raleigh, North Carolina, a student, along with the teacher, greet each other at the door. Once a week, a different student is selected to be the greeter, and they are all taught how to greet, how to shake hands, and how to respond.
At A. B. Combs, there is a culture of consistency, as greeting each other is practiced in every classroom every day, year after year.
A. B. Combs was once the lowest performing school in the district. Today, it is known for academic excellence and personal leadership. And it begins with welcoming students every day in every classroom.
Welcome to Your Future
What happens if your school does not have a culture of consistency? Then you create your own culture in your classroom.
Darrell Cluck is a middle school teacher in Monroe, Louisiana, who welcomes each of his students to class by saying, “Welcome to our class. Welcome to your future.”
He also has student door greeters on a rotating basis. You do not see behavior problems in his classroom. Rather, you see happy, friendly, smiling students who know they are in a safe class where they can interact and learn together in an atmosphere of respect.
There is an old Jewish dictum that says:
“When you greet someone heartily with a warm smile and
a friendly salutation, all is well in that person’s world
if only for a fleeting moment.
“The person feels a sense of validation,
that their existence in the universe has
been acknowledged and recorded.
“That they are known.”
There are students who must leave home without breakfast, who tolerate family discord, traverse past neighborhood gangs, endure bullying on the sidewalk or on the bus, and enter school through metal detectors. Are you the teacher who barely makes it to school on time and scrambles to organize yourself and your lessons while the students are left staring and waiting and waiting for you to begin the class? Your frenzy has just set the tone for what is to follow.
Or, are you the teacher who is organized and ready with activities and lessons to engage the students in learning the moment they enter the classroom, who is a model of caring, calm, and stability as you welcome students into the class? Your constancy has just set the tone for what is to follow.
You may be the first stable adult your students will have at this point in their journey.
You may be their beacon for a brighter tomorrow.
THE Classroom Management Book
To learn how you can make an even greater impact on your students and their learning, click here to download information on our forthcoming book, THE Classroom Management Book. This article is just one of the many topics covered in the book.
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For a printable version of this article click here.
About Effective Teaching...
Harry and Rosemary Wong have been writing columns for Teachers.Net for over 13 years and the columns all have a distinctive style. They write about effective teachers, administrators, schools, and school districts featuring techniques that are immediately replicable and at no cost. More importantly, they work to enhance student learning. An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column, with an abstract of all articles at the end of the most recent June column.
For over 30 years, helping teachers become effective has been the passion of the Wongs. Writing for Teachers.Net is just one of the many ways they reach out to educators with their ideas on how effective teachers improve student learning.
About Harry & Rosemary Wong...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science. Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.
Harry Wong has been awarded the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, the National Teachers Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. He was selected as one of the most admired people in education by the readers of Instructor magazine. Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award. She was also honored as a Distinguished Alumnus from her alma maters, Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana State University.
Harry and Rosemary have been awarded the Upton Sinclair Award and were nominated for the Brock International Prize in Education. They have built and sustain a school in the jungles of Cambodia.
The Wongs are the most sought after speakers in education today, booked two years into the future. Their presentations are practical, offering a common sense, user-friendly, and no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success. Over a million teachers worldwide have heard their message. In spite of their heavily booked schedule, Harry and Rosemary have agreed to write this monthly column so that more people can hear their message.
How They Develop Effective Teachers...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to developing effective teachers, one teacher at a time.
To do this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.
THE Classroom Management Book is what everyone has been waiting for. It is an exhaustive extension of Unit C on classroom management in The First Days of School.
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How to Be an Effective and Successful Teacheris an audio CD set that was recorded live before 800 teachers in St. Louis. Listen as they walk you through classrooms that hum with learning and share how you can replicate the same success in your classroom. In 2 hours and 40 minutes, Harry and Rosemary can transform you into a very effective and successful teacher at no cost!
This presentation has transformed the lives and teaching success of hundreds of thousands of teachers.Learn how to
Begin the school year with a plan
Start class immediately
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Reduce discipline problems
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Maximize classroom instructional time
Use lesson objectives so students know what they are to learn
Use rubrics to assess for student learning
Deal with at-risk students
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The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 3.8 million copies have been sold. It is used in 120 countries, 2,114 colleges, and most every new teacher induction program. The fourth edition has been translated into five foreign languages and includes:
An additional chapter on procedures
A new chapter on assessment with rubrics.
A new chapter on Professional Learning Teams
A new chapter for administrators on implementation
Additional information in Going Beyond Folders
A new DVD, Using THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, presented by Chelonnda Seroyer
The Wongs have also produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.
They also have a successful eLearning course, Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong. The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience. The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized Classroom Management Action Plan.
This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all effective teachers. Details for the classroom management course can be seen at www.ClassroomManagement.com.
You can hear Harry Wong LIVE on a set of CDs, called
How to Improve Student Achievement, recorded at one
of his many presentations. He invites you to steal from him the secrets of effective teaching for all grade levels.
Never Cease to Learn has the power to transform your
attitude and your life. In this DVD, Harry shares his journey on the road to success and tells listeners how to become the educators they were meant to be.
When the books, video series, CD, DVD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective professional development training tool for producing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at www.HarryWong.com.
Helping you produce effective teachers is our passion.