8:00 a.m.: I’m at the Classroom Door
Where are you when students arrive in the morning? At your teacher desk looking at paperwork from the office? At the projector setting up a video you’ll be showing later that morning?
I like to station myself in my customary position at the door, ready to greet each student as they arrive. I notice Chase looking a bit glum and offer her a gentle fist bump along with a “Good morning, Chase. It’s so great to see you. How are you this morning?” To Brendan, who bounces through the door with a cheerful “Good morning, Mr. H!” I give an enthusiastic high-five that matches his high energy. As I greet student after student, I’m not only welcoming them to our day together, but I’m gathering vital information about their mood and readiness for learning.
Phase 1: Greeting
I’ve learned, throughout my six years of using the Responsive Classroom approach, that building community starts the moment students enter the room. Given that we all have lives outside school, it can be tough to predict what kind of mood students will arrive in. Some may have missed breakfast. Some may have been hurried or had an otherwise challenging morning.
That’s why greeting each one at the door is so important. I’ve found that a simple and heartfelt greeting like what I offered to Chase and Brendan has a positive effect on any scenario that may have left a student feeling a bit upset or grumpy. But I don’t stop there.
Phase 2: Milling About
Phase 2 of my arrival time routine is to mill about the room gathering more information. As the children are putting away jackets and backpacks and settling into their morning routine, I walk around asking each student about their morning, their evening, or both. I offer a comment, noticing a new haircut or new sneakers while further assessing students’ moods and catching any preoccupations.
For example, following up on Chase’s reply of “Uh . . . I’m okay” at the door, I now give her a chance to say more if she’d like. “So, you’re just okay?” I ask her. “What’s up?” She then informs me that she only had an apple for breakfast because there wasn’t enough milk for cereal and they were running late. I dash to the cafeteria to nab a bagel and cream cheese. Crisis averted.
I find that I’m frequently heading off such problems during this check-in phase. I’ve heard nervous stories about mom or dad going away on a trip. On a few occasions, I’ve learned about the death of a family member or a pet. These are things that impact students’ daily flow—or focus—significantly.
The situations are not always that deep, of course. Some children just appreciate the chance to tell about a funny thing that happened the previous evening. Some may want to share about the special thing they’re looking forward to doing later that day or week. Regardless, when students hear me asking how they are—and see me waiting for their real response—they feel a sense of belonging and safety, which clears the way for fruitful learning.
Earl Hunter II is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher, teaches third graders, and previously taught fifth graders, at Echo Horizon School in Culver City, CA. He also taught third, fourth, and fifth graders at 68th Street School in South Central Los Angeles, CA.Tags: Arrival time, Hallways
11 Replies to “8:00 a.m.: I’m at the Classroom Door”
I find starting students day with a very friendly greeting and my concern for what is going on in their life seems to help them start the day off right.
I agree completely. I even have previous students that I have taught stop by and tell me good morning and if they have anything they want to share with me.
I find that being excited about the day helps make students excited as well.
Most definitely! If I’m excited, my students become excited.
You can learn a lot about a student or group of students when you greet them at your door. Maybe something is going on school wide, good or bad, by reading the expressions on each students face this will let you know how to proceed with what ever lesson or activity you have planned for the day. Sometimes we may have to take a step back depending on the classes emotional state.
At the door greeting is great way to begin engaging with the students . Finding out how the students are doing open door for learning to take place.
I love greeting my kids at the door. They are usually smiling, but sometimes need a little boost or hug.
Such great ideas…with the last 2 years of covid concerns, we’ve been doing a lot of fist bumps and elbow bumps
Masks have made it hard to understand emotions. I’ve given more time for sharing just for these extra concerns
Greeting children at the door allows me to assess how their morning is going and allows me to assist whenever possible.
I love this idea! I started standing at my door to greet the kids as they came in a few years ago and have found that it really does help them engage more once class begins. We take a short time to discuss anything personal, such as hair cuts, nail salon visits, new outfits, etc. They see me as a person who really cares about them and not just their teacher.
Meeting your kids at the door is so important. It helps in creating that personal connection we are all searching for.
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