A Welcoming Routine for Arrival Time

Each morning at the University School of Nashville’s lower school begins with a simple routine that welcomes students out of their cars and into the building. As children spill out of the vehicles, three adults—an administrator, an enrichment teacher, and the custodian—are there to greet them with a warm “Hello” or a friendly smile. We’ve learned that such small encounters can produce big results. Here’s how this routine looked on a typical day:

Just a few minutes before school started, music teacher Doni Princehorn and I met up with custodian William Glass. The enrichment teachers take turns at this morning duty, and today was Doni’s day. William always covers arrival time: his steady and friendly presence is a key to success for this routine at our school. As we walked to the parking lot together, we touched base about a couple children who might’ve needed special attention that day: a kindergartner having trouble with separation anxiety and a second grader I’d been problem-solving with in my office the day before.

Then, at 7:30 precisely, we stepped onto the sidewalk, and Mr. Glass propped the door open with the doorstop that he carried in his pocket. With a friendly wave at the cars in the drop-off lane, I signaled that the school day had officially begun. Car doors flew open and children scrambled out.

“Good morning, Maria! Where’s your brother?” I asked.

“Home sick,” Maria replied.

I noticed Wes walking with his nose in yet another book. “What are you reading this morning, Wes?” I asked as he neared.

“The Dragon’s Eye,” he replied with a sly smile. “Erec just found a hidden entrance at Grand Central Station, and now he’s in a magical place.”

“That reminds me of Harry Potter and platform 9 3/4.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of like that, but Erec is searching for his mom,” says Wes, dropping his gaze back to the opened pages.

Eying the large bag Luis was toting, I said, “It must be your snack day.” He grinned.

Farther down the sidewalk, I noticed Scott was not moving with his usual light step. “Scott, how are you this morning?” Scott confided that his dog had died over the weekend. I gave him a gentle hug and offered, “You must miss him a lot.”

Meanwhile, Vince Durnan, the school’s director, had joined us as part of his daily walk around the campus, opening car doors, welcoming children, and greeting parents.

These small interactions at arrival time allow the adults at school to know children better. They help launch the day with a safe and caring tone. Loose threads and ragged edges that might affect a child’s day are noticed and attended to.

This daily routine also lets parents, teachers, and administrators interact frequently in a friendly, informal way. When Mr. Baxter drove by after dropping off his girls, he always shouted out his window, “Good morning, Babs.” “Good morning, Ira,” I returned. It’s not easy to quickly learn the first names of some 700 parents, but that big, booming greeting sure helped me learn his!

Like the Morning Meeting that awaits children in the classroom, these first encounters with significant adults at school help foster learning and build key relationships. And it all begins with a genuine “Good morning! I’m so glad you’re here today.”

Babs Freeman-Loftis taught physical education for fourteen years and served as assistant head of the lower school for nine years at the K–12 University School of Nashville. In 2008, she joined the staff of Northeast Foundation for Children as a full-time professional development specialist and Responsive Classroom consultant.

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