Friday, October 1, 2010

The power of "hello" and "goodbye"

Every Friday morning I have the opportunity to see and greet almost every single student at my high school.  The high school at which I work has a little more than 1,800 students, and as I stand their doing my duty I can't help but think how amazing it is that this process goes as smoothly as it does.  It is my personal goal to say "good morning" to every student I have, have had, and potentially expect to have.  The typical response I receive from students is a somewhat bewildered, reserved, and hesitant look that makes me think it is almost painful to simply say "good morning" back to me.  I have trouble understanding why this is, because I usually don't have any trouble getting my students to talk in class, and it is interesting that they seem so hesitant to speak with me in any setting outside of the classroom.

The second part of my story takes place on Friday afternoons as school is letting out.  I get the privilege of doing parking lot duty.  I was asked to do this as a favor because we needed someone to help direct traffic for our school buses.  My initial response was not in favor of doing this duty, but as someone who wants to be a part of the solution, I of course said, "Yes, I would be more than happy to help and take this duty."  To my astonishment, I have really enjoyed my Friday afternoon parking lot duty!  I get the opportunity to see my students heading to their cars, as well as leaving the school grounds.  Perhaps the most interesting thing is that my students, former students, and future students seem so excited to say "hello" and "goodbye" as they are heading to their cars and/or pulling out of the parking lot...I can honestly say I feel really good about myself when I walk back into the building after my Friday afternoon parking lot duty.

The main point of this post is to help recognize the importance of acknowledging the people in our lives.  When I greet students before school I think they are shocked and surprised because it is something they do not expect.  They see being greeted at school as an abnormal activity, and this is something we should definitely attempt to rectify.  If the students arriving at school get half of what I feel when students say "hello" or "goodbye" to me, then it could be an extremely powerful tool in developing and growing a school culture.  It is crucial that students see us as more than just their teachers and principals, but rather as humans that appreciate their existence.  It is so easy for us to put our heads down and walk by, but think about how you feel when somebody greets you with a "hello" and smile.  If you are like me, this simple gesture can have a huge impact on your day.

Please take this opportunity to make sure you are saying "hello" and "goodbye," because these simple phrases can have a positive impact on somebody else's day.  More importantly, the person you positively impact with your "hello" or "goodbye," has the potential to positively impact another person, and from here the snowball begins to grow.  You want to make a positive is much easier than you think!  


  1. So simple and yet so powerful! I stand at the front door of our school every morning and greet the kids and it selfishly starts my day off in such a great way. Having said that, we only have 280 students and are an elementary school. The fact that you do this at a high school makes this story even that much more powerful. We seem to forget that all humans like to be noticed and greeted - even high school students ;-) We all know it is all about relationships so thank you for the reminder of this simple step to enhancing our relationships with students!

  2. I absolutely agree with this post. I have created relationships with kindergarten students just through hallway interactions. By the time they reach my 4th grade classroom some of them tell me that they have been waiting how many years to have me just because of those hello's. Think also of the power of those words to other staff members. Being "snubbed" by a fellow staff member can upset an entire day. Great post, it made me think.

  3. Justin - You obviously set the tone for your students before they even get into your classroom. This is such a simple thing, but unfortunately it is not the norm. Thanks for being such a great example for your staff and students!

  4. So true, Justin. Our teachers are encouraged to greet students at the door each day and we all escort students to the bus lines at the end of the day. It's so nice to see staff standing out on the sidewalks wishing our students a great night! I, too, never walk past a student in the hall without greeting him by name and asking something about his day or complementing him. It's definitely the little things that make a big difference!