By Madison Hafitz, AmeriCorps member serving on the MFS Investment Management team with Hennigan K-8 School.
If you walk by the James W. Hennigan K-8 School at 9 AM on a weekday, a tunnel of red jackets, khaki pants and smiles will meet you. As students climb off buses or hug their parents goodbye, they are greeted by ecstatic cheering. Whether we are hollering about a "moose that drinks a lot of juice," dancing as we "go bananas," or telling everyone around us that "City Year is RED HOT," I would argue there is no better way to start the day!
We call this “morning greeting.” Morning greeting is an essential part of City Year culture that helps students, teachers, staff, and corps members get ready to start the day. For 30 minutes each morning, as everyone arrives at school, corps members stand outside singing, dancing, and chanting, with the sole goal of getting everyone excited for another day of learning. A common welcome-to-school jingle on our morning mix is a simple "Hey, It's You, You're Here, That's Great!" As my teammates and I clap and sing this chant over and over again, we really mean it.
At the Hennigan, we follow the 5B's:
These are expectations set by the school of how they want their students to be. For many of the students we serve, just getting to school can be a challenge. So when we see their smiling faces in that schoolyard, that in itself is an accomplishment. At the Hennigan, we want to help our students embody the 5B's, and morning greeting is a huge part of getting them to "Be Here" so that way we can help them “Be Successful” each and every day.
In addition to singing, dancing and cheering, high fives are an essential part of morning greetings at the Hennigan. With our youngest students, they take their time, stopping in front of each corps member making sure everyone gets a quality high five. One of my favorite parts of morning greeting involves a very enthusiastic 4th grader. When he arrives at school, he likes it when we all line up close together so he can run through and high five our hands like he is a starting point guard running out onto the court to the screams of a fired up crowd. And with our middle school students, who like to pretend they are "too cool for school," we consider it a victory when we receive the occasional fist bump for our efforts.
It is the highlight of my morning, because whether I’m preoccupied with something that happened the day before, stressed about a deadline, or my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, the energy of morning greeting and the smiles that result from it take all my anxiety away. But more importantly, it is significant for our students. Attendance is one the three target areas City Year focuses on, and morning greeting is key because it gives students something to look forward to first thing each day.