Study Shows: Greeting Students at the Door Results in Higher Performance

Greet kids at the door, a worthy routine

A few years ago, the viral story of Barry White. Jr. brought attention to the need to build solid relationships with students. Mr. White had developed unique handshakes with all forty of his students and performed them daily as they entered the classroom. While the impressive nature of his daily ritual was certainly newsworthy, many teachers found themselves nodding along. Greeting students at the door has long been considered best practice–and for a good reason. 

In a widely-touted study, teachers greeted students positively at the door–with impressive results. The theory being that when teachers address offtask behavior exclusively at the beginning of class, they only reinforce that negative behavior. Instead, teachers were tasked with setting a positive tone with an upbeat greeting. During this time, students were assigned independent tasks to complete which they did with up to 42% more success than they had during the previous arrangement where teachers only addressed negative behavior. 

Anecdotally, teachers will tell you that setting aside the time to be at their door makes a huge difference in the relationships that they forge with their students. It does not have to be fancy handshakes or elaborate routines. Simply smiling and saying “good morning” can change the way a student enters your classroom and thus, change the way they perform behaviorally and academically. 

It is tempting to use the time that students are entering and getting settled for administrative tasks–attendance, checking off homework, firing off an email. However, if you set students up for success with the positive greeting and visually reminder of your presence, the study clearly showed that they would work independently with more success, thus allowing you to complete those small tasks during the first ten minutes of class.

We asked middle school teacher, Ashley, about her experience with greeting students, “I wouldn’t say it’s anything special but I try to make sure I say “Morning ___ (insert child’s name)” to as many students as I can while at my duty post in the morning whether they’re mine or not. Just something quick to acknowledge their presence at school and open up the door to more conversation, if they’d like. I think it’s important to help gauge the mood they’re in and energy level they’re at first thing in the morning. I also try to wish them all a good rest of the day as they’re leaving my class.”

I think it’s important to help gauge the mood they’re in and energy level they’re at, first thing in the morning.”

The study also emphasized what they call “precorrective” statements. This means that as teachers are greeting students, they’re also anticipating what they may need to be successful. This means saying things like “Good Morning, take the first few minutes of class to prepare for your test”. Even if it is written on the board or best practice in your classroom, some students may benefit from this positive reinforcement rather than waiting to redirect them when they’re off task. 

Ashley also brought up another benefit of greeting them before they enter the room, It lets you have those calm down moments too if they’re coming in hot from another class or off the bus.” It’s a fact of teaching that kids will have a million interactions during the day that will impact their performance in the classroom. Helping them reset in the hallway is a great way to prevent the negativity from continuing. 

It seems that other important factors were greeting the student by name and that the interaction be perceived as sincere–something that should surprise no teacher. After all, we know that students are the best interpreters of classroom dynamics. They know when we are in a good mood, bad mood, when we care and when we don’t. Being able to sincerely relate and build relationships with students can make or break the culture of your classroom–and it starts at the door. 

Studies Show: Greeting Students at the Door Results in Higher Performance

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