This is a delayed response to a simple experiment I conducted with my new Year 7 class last year after experiencing a less than enjoyable entry into class, in week 2. I only see this class three lessons a week so every moment I spend with them is important. As we, in Australia, are starting a new school year I find it useful to remind myself of the benefits of making great first impressions and this simple experiment adds worth to this claim.
The class lined up politely and stood quietly behind their desks waiting for further instruction, as is customary at our school. It reminded me of the scene from Ferris Beuller’s day off where the class is only physically present, not mentally.
I was most surprised by the lack of conscious awareness that they exhibited while entering. There was no recognition that they were entering a different class, with different content and different pedagogy. After the class entered quietly, in an almost robotic fashion, I asked them to leave the classroom and line up again. I must inform you that our students are very well behaved and most of the time the biggest problem is getting students out of the classroom, not into it. So, the students couldn’t work out why they were being sent outside to line up again.
Once they were outside I introduced the routine a little differently and it changed the emotion of the students. I asked them to greet me in a way that reflected the way they felt. This made them more presently aware of how they were feeling and it also gave me a clear insight into their personality and feelings at the time of the lesson. The mood dramatically changed and smiles spread across their faces. Some laughed and created interesting ways of greeting me and this conscious shift led to a much more positive and engaged classroom. We started every lesson this way and it was really a huge part of our individualized routine.
I encourage all teachers, regardless of experience, to experiment with different ways of greeting your classes to build an authentic supportive classroom environment. This kind of authentic greeting will build emotional intelligence by providing a non-threatening way for students to explore their feelings. What is arguably even more relevant is that this may just be the personal connection these ‘digital natives’ need to help them advance their communication skills.
Further to this I have provided a link to a useful resource I found at, anethicalisland.wordpress.
Good luck in 2016.