July 10, 2013

Changing Behavior: The Power of a Greeting

If you are at your wits end and need to make behavior change in your classroom now (or yesterday!) consider the child and what need is not being met. Remember the 6 needs from this post?

These are the needs that I believe drive all children's (and adult) behaviors.


  • To be seen
  • To be heard 
  • To be loved
  • To be forgiven
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep

Today we'll talk about the first need TO BE SEEN.

The first need TO BE SEEN can be addressed right as you walk into school.

A simple greeting:
Are you making eye contact with students and saying "Hi (name here, yes it's important to use their name if possible)" Sounds simple, right? But so many people don't notice all the children walking right by them! (I think it's because they are shorter then us!) Good for you if you take the time for a simple hello to every student you pass. 

Want to really make a younger student feel like they're seen and change behavior in an instant? Call a student by their name alliterated with a positive adjective in front. Like amazing Alexandra, generous George, creative Kate etc. The Kindergarteners love this and will live up to the adjective that I put in front of their name. The rest of the class waits to hear their new "name" which improves their behavior as well! This takes no extra time, but adds a bit of fun and makes everyone feel noticed for something positive. 

Noticing the details:
With older students, it's important to find out a personal interest.  I often do this through writing assignments. The time is well worth it when you can say, "Juan how's the new baby brother? Crying all night? You are a good big brother to help out your mom." Being aware of the details makes a student feel recognized and although it doesn't change the situation, the acknowledgement greatly changes their behavior. 

Let's face it. Teaching hundreds and hundreds of students, it's tough to make every child feel seen. It is completely overwhelming. So I like to think of this quote as I walk in the door to school. 
"Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth do!" (author unknown)

Thinking that makes me remember that we have a choice each day no matter what's going on in life, exchanging a smile and greeting can go a long way in helping both students and teachers feel better about coming to school and work.

What are some ways you make your students feel seen? 


Marcia Beckett said...

I like the adjective idea. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to try that. I try to say hi as much as possible but I am sometimes guilty of feeling too distracted and stressed.

Phyl said...

All good advice! Just make sure the kid likes the adjective you choose. Other nicknames that show you know the child are also good, I think. I had some favorite nicknames, though not necessarily alliterative adjectives, for kids over the years: first, there was 'Kylie Squared'. Two inseparable girls named Kylie and Kylee worked together always and were such a positive spirit. I called them 'IE' and 'EE' when I needed them separately, but they loved their 'Squared' nickname.
Then there was Summer, a sweet girl who, I swear, paint jumped onto from across the room. She LOVED and was proud of her name Messy Bessie. And the nickname stuck from grade 1 till I retired when she was in grade 6.(And I imagine she warned her 7th grade art teacher about this 'affliction'.)

And I would add, take the moment to look at those photos of the new baby brother or dog, and let them share them with the class. Lots of times the classroom teacher hasn't done this. Too busy! Praise the drawings given to you, and display them all proudly. Wear the macaroni jewelry you are given, and take a bite of that cupcake in front of the birthday boy, no matter what you do with the rest!

Unknown said...

Phyl I love you because you do wear the necklace and eat the cupcake (a bite!) that's why kids love you too!

Hi Marcia;)

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how many American bloggers are posting about the other side of teaching. I'm guessing you are still on summer break. I've just begun our winter break and noticed how ready the children were to have a holiday. Your blog is very timely. I like your ideas very much. Each morning I begin with "what's on top" a sort of news circle. Each child in turn holds a wand and tells us what is right there for them. They often say what they'll be doing after school, or something new they have. It's a great way to engage with each child and a way for them to offload. I ask that they all contribute even if it is just to say what they had for breakfast. It takes 10to15 mins.

Unknown said...

Such a timely and wonderful post, Erica! I am 6 weeks away from the first day of school, but am working hard to develop new ways of communicating with my kids. I use the alliteration/name method and I really like all of your other suggestions. Hope your summer is going well!