This video came across my news feed the other day and I found myself wishing teachers in 5th grade were this amazing when I was a student. It’s worth the 19 seconds…
I love everything about this…and am in awe of both the memory and coordination it must take to be able to recall each special handshake. This guy has some serious moves.
Beyond the coordination aspect of this act, what was rumbling around for me after watching it are thoughts about what this must mean to each student as they start the day anticipating their own special welcome to Mr. White’s class. In thinking about this more, my heart swells as I reflect on how the lessons and truths Mr. White imparts in the 4-6 seconds each handshake takes may serve as some of the most pivotal learning that takes place for each kid that day.
Before getting to school each morning all of these students, and all students everywhere have a story that begins at home. For some it may even begin the evening before, maybe they tucked themselves in without a goodnight hug or kiss. Maybe they went to sleep with a full belly. Maybe not. In the morning some kids would have been lovingly rustled awake by a parent, lunches packed with care and attention, and the child sent off to school – perhaps even driven right to the door. Other kids may have set their own alarm, scrounged for some breakfast fare, searched out lunch, and locked the door behind them as they left on foot or by bus to school.
There are kids who on coming to school, have yet to be looked at lovingly by grown up eyes that day – and so Mr. White’s welcome may be the first place of refuge or safety for students entering class. Even for those whose mornings have been nurturing and positive, I think there are a few key lessons that are imparted by this morning ritual that all students (and all people) need to know and feel:
1. You are anticipated. Mr. White waits at the door to greet every student. He is not in his class prepping for the lesson, browsing on his laptop, or writing with a turned back on the chalkboard. He is at the door, eager to welcome his flock in – and this speaks volumes to the kids about their arrival being important. What a significant way to start the day! Imagine if our bosses stood at the door to welcome us in to work each day, and if their face lit up with a smile at our arrival!
2. You are unique. No two handshakes are the same. Just like no two people are the same. This educator understands that every child, every person, needs to feel a sense of specialness and uniqueness in the world. Having distinct handshakes, rather than a generic ‘class handshake’ affirms the uniqueness of each individual.
3. You matter. No kid sneaks by or gets around this greeting. Everyone gets a turn, and nobody gets left out. Students start the day knowing that their presence matters, that they are seen, and that they are not overlooked.
4. You’re worth it. The investment of time it must have taken to learn and perfect each handshake, as well as his ongoing daily commitment to the ritual, communicates to the students that they are worth Mr. White’s time. Think about when someone puts their phone down to really listen to a conversation, or when a friend cancelled plans to spend time with you and of how good that felt? These kids are met with that sense of importance and value as they start each day.
5. You belong here. This ritual, while it may seem trivial in the course of a whole day of learning, reminds kids daily that they are part of Mr. White’s life, his class, his handshake routine – and this repetitive act solidifies each students’ place as part of the larger group. We are biologically and physiologically wired to connect with people, and the daily handshake serves as a brilliant reminder of corporate identity as one of Mr. White’s students.
So imagine again the varied mornings that each student has had in the minutes and hours before arriving in class. Some arrive scattered and lonely, some feel nurtured and noticed, but all students start the day being reminded that they are anticipated, unique, that they matter, that they are worth it, and that they belong. What a powerful collecting and grounding way to start each day.
And perhaps this video can serve as a challenge to us in our personal lives to implement ways of sending ourselves and our loved ones off into the world with such clear and concrete affirmations. Don’t we all need to hear these things? I think so. And let me take a moment to remind you, yes, you, that…
You are anticipated. Maybe nobody has greeted you yet today. Let me be the first to say hello, and welcome here. It’s good to have you.
You are unique. Unique doesn’t mean perfect, rather it points to how you are different than other people in ways that are special. The way you take your coffee, how dark you like your toast, the way you scrunch up your nose when you laugh. These things about you that are different, they are amazing and what make you, you. I celebrate those special differences in you today.
You matter. It’s true. You do. Before you try and argue it and tell me all the reasons you shouldn’t/don’t/can’t matter, because you haven’t done enough/finished that thing/accomplished your goals…please stop. You’re here. Your presence is enough. Take a moment and breathe that in. That breath you just exhaled? It’s proof you’re alive. And that’s enough. You matter. End of story.
You are worth it. Not, ‘you’re worth it when…’ – you are worth kindness and goodness and love and compassion. You are worth smiles and care and affection. Maybe you’re not getting them, but not having people in your life to affirm your worth doesn’t make you unworthy. Performing more, achieving more…these things don’t change it either – you’re worth people helping and caring and loving and seeing. If you feel unseen, I am sorry. Please know you are still worthy.
You belong. We all need spaces and places to belong. Sadly, not all people have found safe spots to call their own. I hope today that you would be able to go out into the world and see the ways you are like other people, and in doing so – that you may feel a sense of rootedness and grounding. Maybe you feel at home in a coffee shop, a library, or the gym. Or perhaps can belong on the bus with fellow travelers. You can also belong here, as a fellow learner and grower and as one who seeks to move themselves towards greater love for themselves, and greater connection with those around them.
So hats off today to Mr. White, for the good and important work he is doing in helping people learn all of these truths before they set foot in the class. Let’s look for ways that we, too, can share these messages with those around us – that we might all go through our day feeling a little more collected and a little more rooted in who we are as people.