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The power of greeting students every morning

City Year’s goal with morning greeting is to get students excited to be at school, and to make everyone feel welcome in their learning environment.

An elementary school student wearing glasses high fives a City Year AmeriCorps member outside their school

Welcoming students to school to start the day on a positive note

Every morning at 8:10 a.m., my teammates and I line up in two parallel lines outside the front of Condon Elementary School in Boston to greet students and their families. We call this part of the day “morning greeting.” The soundtrack of the morning is a mix of friendly choruses: good-mornings, have-a-good-days, and welcome-to-schools.

The first bus arrives at 8:15 a.m. and students come pouring through our lines. Students return our high fives as we begin to sing, chant, clap, and dance to inspire and motivate students to look forward to another day of learning.

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City Year AmeriCorps members are student success coaches.

Students look forward to morning greeting

When I first realized all that morning greeting was going to entail—20 minutes of me being highly energetic before 9:00 in the morning—I was skeptical. I thought to myself: It’s going to be a long year. I can make this work, but does it really make a difference?

Within my first weeks I was convinced that it did. I remember the first time I saw that morning greeting was an effective way to get students to school on time. Just like every other morning before it, my team and I stood outside the school and greeted hundreds of students and their families as they arrived.

One student, who I’ll call Alyssa to protect her privacy, rolled off the bus ready to go through the motions for another day, noticeably not thrilled about being at school. She walked towards my teammates and me with her friends behind her. I noticed she stepped to the side and held out her hand to not just get high fives from us but to give us high fives. A slight enthusiasm now peeked through her “I’m too cool for school” demeanor.

Later that morning I touched base with Alyssa* as she was getting her math binder from her backpack. Alyssa struggles with attendance, as she often misses the bus and does not have another way to get to school. I told her that it was good to have her in school that day and that we missed her the day before when she wasn’t there. I also mentioned that I noticed how much she seemed to enjoy morning greeting.

She glanced around to see if any of her friends were nearby. Seeing that the coast was clear, she gave me a little smile, a slight nod and took her binder back to her seat.

Showing up for students, every day

While an action like morning greeting may seem small, the combination of these small gestures—showing how glad we are to see students arrive, checking in with students individually throughout the school day, and making sure they know they are surrounded by caring adults—can add up to something big. Students feel a greater sense of belonging and confidence when they know they’re being supported by teachers and AmeriCorps members.

Learn more about becoming a student success coach with City Year!

*Name changed to protect student privacy

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated in December 2022.

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