There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
As soon as school started, I realized that one of the things I miss most over the summer break is greeting everyone as they arrive at school. I consider the opportunity to stand in the school driveway and say good morning to our students a joyful way to start the morning and one of the privileges of my role as Head of School. It’s also a bonus when I get to say hello to parents, siblings, and dogs when I duck my head into your cars.
Did you know that a firm handshake is a proven way to make a good first impression? When I shake hands (or exchange a fist bump, as one second grader prefers), I make eye contact with the student and have a quick verbal exchange. I request that the students return the eye contact and either answer my question or return my morning greeting with their own expression of “good morning.” The American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that there is a direct correlation between a handshake’s strength and the eye contact maintained during the handshake and a favorable first impression. I sincerely hope that practice over the years will give our students confidence and comfort in greeting others in a way that helps them benefit from making a strong first impression.
An unintended benefit of what I suspect is over 1,000 handshakes per week is a strong immune system. I vigorously wash my hands after morning carpool, and I rarely have so much as a sniffle! If a child isn’t feeling well, I sometimes ask them to give me a fist bump or elbow tap (I don’t tell them why, I just offer my elbow or fist). Also, if I don’t feel 100%, I give elbow bumps so I don’t start a school-wide outbreak. One kindergartener, years ago, asked me if my elbow felt better after I returned to full health and stopped giving elbow bumps. Apparently, she thought the elbow bump was a solution to a sore elbow. I took it as a sign that she’d already mastered the morning greeting!