Orange post-it note, #2 pencil and first grade spelling: “thank you for coming”, followed by 2 sketched balloons and a heart. She handed it to me as I was lining up the 19 students in a classroom where I had been the substitute teacher for the day. Such a genuine act of hospitality from someone I had just met, and not very old either. 4 words that made me feel noticed, appreciated and valuable. I was reminded again what an honor it is to be a teacher, and how important hospitality and encouragement are for each of us.
When we think of “hospitality” we may think of 5 star hotels like The Four Seasons or being invited to a dinner party at someone’s home. Being friendly, showing mutual respect, and generously serving are qualities that everyone appreciates about the people and places they visit. Classrooms can be these places as well, places where all students are recognized, attended to, and belong.
Hospitality in the classroom that allows students to feel welcomed is an important learning tool for all: students who may be experiencing poverty, trauma, loneliness, academic struggles, or just normal life. Empowerment for learning is dependent on students feeling included (Glasser, 1992; Erwin, 2004; Jensen, 2009, Kagan, 2009). Many teachers would agree with this first-year teacher’s inspiration, “My teacher made me feel like she was always happy to see us…I want to do the same for all my students.”
I encourage you to find ways to show new ways to extend hospitality to your students or learners for the upcoming school year. Here are a few of my favorites that will help set the “I am for you” tone of your classroom:
- Write a personal note to each student BEFORE school begins – include a picture of yourself and mail to your students’ home address or have available at registration or open house
- Set a class goal together which will become the mantra of the class, such as “We are here to learn!”
- Start together with morning meetings/class meetings -sit in a circle and invite all students to participate (See www.responsiveclassrooms.org for more specifics)
- Determine class rules and consequences together – make them logical and ask all students to sign them before you post them in a spot in the classroom…and don’t forget to sign it, as well, Teacher!
- Being intentional to welcome all into learning can be an important and brain-friendly way to build classroom relationships and influence learning (Keltner, Marsh, & Smith, 2010; Levin & Long, 1981). By modeling hospitality your students will take their cues from you…and who knows you may even get your own post-it note!
This is what we get to do!