I was at Issaquah Valley Elementary School in time for a morning staff meeting that was directly on the heels of the previous evening’s open house. What a combination—tired upon tired. Standing at the door, greeting each staff member, was principal Michelle. As she welcomed each employee, she asked about open house, agreed about being tired, inquired about family members, and listened carefully to the responses, setting the stage for the meeting with the message You are welcome, you are important, you are heard.
As teachers, we can open the door each morning with the same intent, welcoming the line of faces and setting a positive focus. For some, this is the happiest door to be opened. For others walking over the threshold is the beginning of focusing and imagining a positive day to come.
As each child passes, we connect with them. You might even say we take their temperature. We watch to see if anyone’s internal thermometer is creating a defense to fight against an infection: How are they feeling right now? Are they ready to learn? We watch for patterns of behavior: this child smiles and locks eyes, the next child’s head is down and they’re shuffling their feet, this child is yelling in line, pushing their way to the front. A temperature is not an illness; it is just a symptom of the body’s response to an illness and is not considered dangerous. What is causing the temperature, and how should it be treated? Can the child resolve the issue on their own or do they need help?
Each child brings a story with them, and in that split-second interaction, we listen and convey that we care about them and love them as a human first. We are opening our class door and offering a world of safety, respect, and strategies for learning today and every day. Even when their internal temperature is radiating distress, we offer them love and strategies to reduce their fever.
The small but mighty act of opening the door and welcoming our students may well be one of the most important things we do all day.