Research shows when teachers spend time greeting students as they walk into the classroom, it can improve student behavior. There was higher academic engagement with the students, as well as less disruptive behavior. It increased their learning time by one hour. Teachers also commented on how easy the effort was for such a great outcome.
One key point that I find very interesting in this study is the simplicity of human engagement and interaction. Students may come to school for an education, but long for relationships and trust to be built before real learning can happen. Another way I have observed this in my teaching is the use of personal storytelling to connect concepts. I often retold stories of my childhood to my first-grade students that would assist them in understanding concepts, which helped them feel connected to me in a new way by knowing me on a personal level. I truly believe that relationships are key in teaching, and research now shows that it is, even by simply standing at the door to greet students.
Another aspect I find very interesting is the ratio of time spent to time earned. How long does it take to stand at the door to greet students? Maybe five to seven minutes max? In return, the study suggests that because of increased student engagement and decreased disruptive behaviors, a full hour was added in instruction time. 7 minutes: 1 hour seems to be a very fair ratio to me!
Less disruptive behavior is appealing to any educator. Time spent redirecting and keeping students on track is not only unprofitable to the classroom but can also be wearing on the teacher over time, causing both the teacher and the students more stress. Spending a few minutes every day standing near the doorway to greet students truly can be very lucrative.
Applying this to the classroom may look simple at first, however, once put into action, it can also seem too time-consuming. How often are you running through your classroom sorting last-minute papers, or writing up information on the whiteboard as students walk in? It can be so easy to use these last few minutes to finish up work before the day must begin.
When we check our expectations of ourselves and remember that relationships must come before learning can happen, spending a few minutes greeting students will come before that last-minute work. It also does not happen in one day. This happens over time and with consistency.
I challenge you to give it a try for a few weeks and let me know what you find. Do you have less disruptive behavior in your classroom? Are your students more actively engaged in the learning process? Was it hard to give up that time in order to greet students, or did you find it easy?
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