1. Teacher Life

The Importance and Impact of Greetings in Virtual Hallways

“The driver for learning is social connection.”

The statement above from the Edutopia video on “Making Connections with Greetings at the Door” is one that truly resonated.

Check out the entire video below. 

“I see you, I know you, I’m connecting with you,
and you’re important to me.”

How powerful is that statement?

It reminds us of the importance of ensuring our learners feel valued each day. Simply greeting kids at the door in a way that is meaningful to them can make a positive impact on each day.

Many, though, might see this idea as “fluffy,” but feeling valued will have a direct connection to improvement in learning.  As shared in “Innovate Inside the Box,research done by Ohio State found that “social capital” had more of an impact on learning than throwing money at an initiative.

Although we often assume that the amount of money spent increases the outcomes, researchers out of Ohio State found the effect of social capital was three times greater than financial investments on math scores and five times larger on reading scores.

A couple of things about the above statement.

  1. This doesn’t mean that monetary investment in education is not needed.  
  2. Learning is more than scores, but the common-sense connection is that if you feel valued at your work, you will do better at your job. The same is true for learners in the classroom.

But, with an emergency remote teaching situation, how do you “greet a student in the hallway?”  An idea I have been using is saying hi to everyone as they enter a “virtual” room, but also have this “Meme Check-In” to lighten the mood immediately:

I would use this to sometimes private message participants to check-in as well just to make sure they were okay based on their response. 

One of the members shared the following in their feedback:

I love how you started each session by making personal connections and asking  questions not-related to the sessions, but just about us.  I realized now that when I am jumping into the content right away, it feels “cold.” 

Another strategy I found useful was by continuously asking participants questions and embedding their thoughts and ideas into the learning.  It is not only necessary that students feel welcome to the class, but that their contributions are needed for the class to be successful.

Bill Ferriter shares the following idea in his post “Tips for Teaching ‘Live Lessons’ During Coronavirus“:

I make sure to notice every student who shows up: 

As they enter our “digital room,” I say hello to every kid individually. I joke with them about their profile pics. I complement their bedrooms (if they have their webcams on). I ask about their siblings. I ask them to bring a pet to class and show it to us.

There’s nothing remarkable here, right? All kids want to be noticed.

But that’s even MORE important in a time when students’ lives have been turned upside down. Many of our kids aren’t getting noticed as much as they need. Parents are busy and overwhelmed, juggling jobs while simultaneously trying to keep kids busy for hours on end. Students aren’t interacting socially as much as usual — sporting practices have been cancelled, school isn’t happening, cousins and grandparents aren’t visiting.

So let your kids know that you SEE them in your rooms — even if they don’t turn on their webcams or grab the mic in your sessions. Doing so will make them feel like they BELONG in your online class — and will make them want to come back again.

The last part where Bill shares, “…and will make them want to come back again” resonated with me. It is easier than ever to check out from a class if you do not feel a personal connection. In a face-to-face setting, a student is there no matter if they want to be or not. Now, it is easy to check out when there are other options at home, let alone considering the barriers that students may have to overcome to take part in any virtual setting.

As I have said before, “Focus on connection first, everything else second. And a very DISTANT second.”  The “virtual greeting” to start a day is about creating an environment where it is about more than “teaching and learning” but also makes teaching and learning more effective in an online or face-to-face setting.  Feeling valued is necessary for all environments. 

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