I begin most days standing outside the front doors of the schoolhouse greeting students. Some are just getting off the train, some emerging from their parents’ cars, others hopping off bikes or skateboards. Everybody gets a “good morning,” and sometimes students pause for a little conversation — a chance for a student to tell me about a lab they did in chemistry the day before or for me to pat them on the back for some good hustle in the soccer game. Last week, one ninth grader looked at me and asked, “Did I do something wrong? Did I miss something? Why are you out here?” I smiled and assured him that everything was fine and that I greet students just to be friendly.
His question did make me think, though, about the purpose behind the ritual. The truth is that I’ve seen others do it and have adopted it just because it feels right. But I suspect there’s more to it. The transition from home to commute to school can be complicated and sometimes stressful for these young people. Maybe a smile given and returned can make that a little easier — relieving the stress, momentarily, around the geometry test coming up later in the morning. It’s also a moment for every kid to feel seen. Inclusion sits at the heart of our mission; every student deserves to feel like this place is home no matter where they come from. If a welcome at the start of the day can help do that, even for some, then it’s time very well spent. Plus, I learn a lot about what’s happening in these kids’ lives in the process and, selfishly, it’s a fun way to start the day.
I’ve since discovered that there is quite a bit of writing and even some scholarly research indicating psychological and pedagogical benefits of greeting students at the door in the morning. But even without the research, I’m going to keep doing it because it fits with who we are.
See you in the morning.