One of my goals this past year was to allow my students to learn “soft skills”, skills that would truly elevate them in comparison to their peers. We learned how to give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, and start small conversations with adults. I believe these skills are essential for success and should start as early as possible! The increase of technology keeps my kids glued to screens (for better or for worse) and there are some basic social skills that I’m starting to see drift through the cracks. We had a blast practicing these skills with each other, with guests in our classroom, and with school personnel. I always received a delighted face from our guests because they felt appreciated that each of my students shook their hand, introduced themselves, thanked them for being here, and maintained eye contact the entire time. These are not easy skills that many adults still struggle with but I’ve found that it completely transformed the respectful and mature climate of my classroom.
To keep our practice up, I started to stand outside of my door and greet each individual student with a handshake to start our day. It became the fabric of our classroom routine. As the year went on my students initiated the handshakes and small conversations as they became more confident. Right before my eyes I saw shy awkward sixth graders become confident young adults. It was amazing to see! Additionally, our morning handshakes spoke to my relationship with students. Whatever happened the day before (if there was a behavior issue or problem), the handshake told my students that today is a new day, I believe in you, I care about you, and I want you to succeed. The power of a simple handshake will transform your class.
On the last day of school my students challenged me to see how fast I could get around to everybody one last time. I suggest slowing down and having individual conversations of course but this was a great way to end our year. Enjoy!