According to Margaret C. Wang, Geneva D. Haertel and Herbert J. Walberg in an Educational Leadership article titled Synthesis of Research / What Helps Students Learn?, “An analysis of 50 years of research reveals that direct influences like classroom management affect student learning more than indirect influences such as policies.”
Can you believe that? According to the research, the most important factor influencing student learning is classroom management. Moreover, classroom management begins on day one with you and your expectations for learning.
Consider these statements by Harry and Rosemary Wong in The First Days of School:
Effective teachers manage their classrooms.
Ineffective teachers discipline their classrooms.
As a teacher, I always wanted an organized and well-managed classroom so that I could teach the rigorous and relevant mathematics I wanted my students to learn. A well-managed classroom begins with consistent expectations. Consistent expectations are taught through procedures and routines.
Let’s begin with a simple routine: Start each day by standing at the door with a big smile and warm handshake.
During our new teacher orientation a few years back, Annette Breaux encouraged teachers to be like Wal-Mart greeters. Wal-Mart actually pays people to meet and greet customers because Wal-Mart gets it — happy shoppers who feel wanted and welcome are more likely to buy what is being sold and return to the store again and again. Wouldn’t this model work for students, too?
According to Breaux, you want students — your customers — to feel happy and welcome when they enter your classroom and you want them to buy what you are selling — a passion for learning mathematics, reading, music or art. We also want our students to come back repeatedly.
How can you become the Wal-Mart greeter for your classroom? Simply stand at the door, every day, every period and greet students! Greet them by name. Smile. Thank students for coming to class. Comment on their new haircut, cool T-shirt or nice attire. Inquire about the upcoming football game, volleyball game or other extracurricular activities. Ask about their work on assigned projects.
Dr. Clayton Cook from the University of Washington has actually given a name to this routine — the Positive Greetings at the Door procedure. Dr. Cook breaks Positive Greetings at the Door into four easy steps:
1. Stand at or around the door to focus on greeting students. Make students feel important even before they sit down.
2. Positively interact with students as they come in the door. Positive interactions can consist of verbal interaction (praising a student for walking in quietly, saying, “hello, how’s it going”) or nonverbal behavior (shaking hands, giving the student a thumbs-up). Look students in the eye and teach them to give greetings back! Your goal is to initiate at least five positive interactions with students as they walk into your classroom. Take a minute to look back and scan the room for students who are responding to your positive expectations. Recognize the appropriate behavior you want all students to model.
3. Next, provide pre-corrective statements to individual students or the entire class. Tell students about the behaviors you want them to exhibit in order to have a successful day in your classroom. Praise and reinforce positive behavior.
4. Remind students to look at the class schedule or agenda on your board so that they can become engaged in the learning process immediately. I’ve seen many teachers post warm-ups on the board, give five-minute challenges or a brain teaser for a group of students to solve, provide a quick writing prompt or just let students know what supplies to have out so that learning can begin. Have your favorite music playing when students enter; classical music sets the tone for learning — but so does rock ’n’ roll! When students pass through your door, it is a signal for learning to begin — even before the bell rings.
Practice this procedure routinely. Students say that teachers who meet and greet them at the door are the ones who also care about them personally, and this personal interest motivates them to do better in class. Remember, you will not get to rigor and relevance until you first build positive relationships with students.
John Maxwell gets it: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Show students you care about them personally and about their learning. Set a positive tone for learning each day that students enter the classroom. You won’t regret establishing this routine — but you MUST practice it consistently. You can’t do this just on opening day and expect long-lasting results. Be at the door every day for your students.
By the way, as students leave your classroom each day, tell them goodbye and let them know you look forward to being with them tomorrow!
Here’s your chance to share tips for meeting and greeting students at the door. What consistent expectations do you set as you greet students each day? (Remember to give a shoutout to your school by letting us know where you teach.)
Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker, 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior. Larchmont, NY : Eye of Education, 2010.
Cook, C. R., |. (n.d.). Positive Greetings at the Door.
Wang, M. C. (1993). Margaret c. wang, geneva d. haertel and herbert j. walberg in an educational leadership article titled synthesis of research / what helps students learn?. Educational Leadership, 51(4).
Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.