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Songs, Hugs, Haircuts: How Principals Make Morning Greetings Fun

Chronic absenteeism is sticky, and it’s ringing alarm bells, all the way from primary schools to the federal government. In fact, tackling absenteeism is one of three areas of improvement that the U.S. Department of Education now wants schools to focus on.

Principals now have to focus not just on administrative and instructional issues inside their buildings, but also prioritize making their schools a place that students and teachers choose to come to every day.

As some principals have indicated, a routine morning check-in acts as a safety net to catch any problems that a student might be facing at home.

The enticement to come to school—and stay—starts at the very top of the day, said Scott Wisniewski, the principal at Pompton Lakes High School in Passaic County, N.J. He’s chosen music to help kick off the day.

One of the school’s students plays the call “To the Colors” every morning right before the Pledge of Allegiance. Then on Fridays, Wisniewski plays music before homeroom in the hallways. This week, Friday started with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” in support of the Super Bowl-bound ‘49ers.

The routine behind the greeting helps. Chris Young, principal at North Country Union High School in Newport, Vt., plays a song every day before he reads the morning announcements.

“The best part of my day is choosing what to play. This month is all African American artists for Black History Month. So I’m going to chose between Stevie Wonder or Aretha [Franklin],” Young said.

Make it unique

Most educators also highlight the benefits of a morning check-in with their students. Sham Bevel, the principal of Bayside Sixth Grade Campus, in Virginia Beach, Va., said she stands in the main hallway every morning and greets students by name.

“I give out hugs, high-fives, and compliments to most. I usually visit morning classes as a quick way for me to make sure [they] all see me and I don’t miss anyone,” Bevel said.

EdWeek readers agree. In response to a recent social media post about morning greeting routines, educators shared their most effective morning routines. The common theme in all these routines is clear: principals should identify unique traits about the students and highlight them in their daily check-in with students.

“I stand at the door and say hi, good morning, or afternoon. I try to say something personal especially to the quiet ones, like: I love that band, or I like your haircut, or are you okay? Just check in.”

—Mary W

“At the start of the year, I tell my students I learned this routine when we did classes on Zoom. I explain, I will greet them individually by their name, and I ask them to look at me and say hello back. Every day. A student asked why I valued this routine. ‘Because I want every person to be recognized as a person,’ I responded.”

—Shawn F

“I greeted each student at the door. For a while I said hi in a different language every day. Most students really got into it and tried to imitate the greeting. When the bell rang and I came inside, I would ask who thought they recognized the language.”

—Sherry T

“I teach high school and stand outside of my room holding the door open and I greet the students as they come in or go by. I say good morning in the morning and good afternoon in the afternoon. If I know their names, I greet them by name. Every period, every day.”

—Tiffany N

“I stand in the hall by my room and greet each child by name, as well as say good morning a hundred times to other kids going to their classes.”

—Amy G

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