Everything Speaks – Welcome to class!

This is the second post in a series I call: Everything Speaks!

What makes a great teacher? What is one thing I can do today to continue to be a great teacher? The answer:  Everything Speaks. This is a focal point of the trainings we offer for educators, and one I continue to implement in my own profession. Simply put, everything speaks means that everything we do as educators sends a message to students about learning (and school). Great teachers understand the gravity of this tenet and pay careful attention to the messages they are sending to students. Some obvious examples of this tenet include teachers’ verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and dress/appearance. Many other examples exist, but one I would like to focus on is welcoming students to class.

When do you welcome students to class? If you are an elementary teacher, it is likely you welcome students at the beginning of the day, and also possibly at midday. If you are a secondary teacher, you likely welcome students to every period, which could be 3, 4, or up to 8 times a day. How do you welcome students? Why do you welcome students? Teachers are very busy during the school day. Preparing lessons, arranging the classroom, and other responsibilities can easily consume teacher time as students are coming to class. Secondary teachers enjoy precious few minutes between periods, and these are often filled with conversations with students and other teachers, or routine tasks like submitting attendance. Or are you required to stand at the door as students enter, or stand in the hallway as students are passing between peuntitled1riods?

Consider the following question: what message do you want to send to students every day as they come to class (school)? I imagine we want students to feel safe, welcome, and positive. Perhaps you want them excited about learning and the day. We play an important role in orchestrating this message. Everything speaks: the way I stand at the door; eye contact; the words I say to students; and the physical contact I make with students (for instance, hand shakes and high fives). I could stand casually near the door, reviewing papers, and watching occasionally as students pass by. This would send a message. Or I could stand firmly at the door, making eye contact with all students and giving them high fives as they enter the classroom. This would also send a message.

Consider how you welcome students, and consider modifications you might make to achieve your desired welcome message. Everything became great when you arrived!

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