One of my favorite routines during the day is greeting our students (and parents) as they arrive in the morning. Seeing the smiling student faces as they hop off the bus or enter into the school campus is always pretty uplifting, and a high-five is a great way to start the day. While I have a long way to go before I can match my singing and dancing Arkansas colleague Gary Logan (goo.gl/9eIfeV), I am not ruling out the possibility of giving it a go someday.
Being visible in the morning is one of the most effective techniques I have found in building meaningful relationships with students and parents. From first eye contact, I can tell exactly what that student might need. For most, it's that simple high-five or a greeting, but for others a "good morning" is an invitation to tell a whole story of the events of the previous evening or weekend. Some of the very best stories come from birthday parties, athletic events, music performances, family vacations, play dates, and of course, visits from grandma and grandpa. I am thankful that I get to hear about a lot of these special moments.
I believe that seeing the principal out front of the school every morning allows the students a predictable time where they know they will be able to find me at least once throughout the day. And while the principal can never match the same relationship that student has with their teacher, sometimes it's the presence of another caring adult at school that can make an impact.
These interactions have another benefit: the building of social capital. Positive interaction after positive interaction set the stage for the "withdrawal" that sometimes needs to happen when students make bad decisions. Students know that a mistake is just that, and that the care the adults in the building have is unconditional. I feel that my students also feel that level of trust even though the next morning interaction might include a "hey, let's make some good choices today" or "I'm going to be checking in with you later on".
My hope is that these quick social interactions set the tone for a safe and caring school, and that our students know they are welcome and valued each and every day. I wouldn't be completing the picture if I didn't mention those days when students arrive at the school angry, upset, crying, tired or hungry. These days happen, and when they do I am glad that I am there to welcome these students.
I appreciate our students for getting my day off to a great start, and I hope I can do just a bit to return that favour. Who knows, maybe one morning I will bring out the karaoke mic and belt out some of my favorite tunes. I do know all Frozen songs by heart.
I am an elementary school principal, passionate about engagement, innovation, and learning from the unique skills and interests of students and fellow educators.