The Power of Hello

Every morning, in my new job as Lower School Head, I have the opportunity to shake hands with many of the girls as I greet them arriving by car or on foot.  It feels like such a privilege to be able to greet students at the start of their school day. I know that this promotes not only good manners, but trust.

Several jobs ago, I attended a workshop led by Boys Town. This organization has roots in a small town in Nebraska. It specializes in helping children learn and grow despite obstacles that they may encounter. My workshop was not only stirring but instructional. One of the main ideas that stayed with me was the power of saying hello.

According to the Boys Town model, children need to feel that they matter through their connection to others, and if they are lacking this connection at home or in their community, school is where they are able to feel a part of something beyond themselves. No problem is insurmountable when connected to a caring community.

I recently came upon an article on Twitter titled, “The Value of Just Saying Hello,” and it reminded me of the Boys Town ideals. The author, Kevin Fittinghoff, states that the greeting is like “sandpaper, breaking through the too-smooth finish and giving us something to hold on to.” I love the idea that each child I greet at the doorway of school is now “roughed up” and better able to absorb new possibilities that the day may present to them.

See the link below to this interesting article.


In the Lower School, our teachers also greet the girls with a special hello and message as part of “Morning Meeting”. This is a part of Responsive Classroom, which we are embracing as a lower school. On the Responsive Classroom website (linked below) the approach is described as “empowering educators to create safe, joyful, and engaging learning communities where all students have a sense of belonging and feel significant.” The power of saying hello and knowing each other is huge and can contribute to a successful year. For that reason, the Morning Meeting greeting is built into every day. Girls share a special handshake, try saying a greeting in a new language, or use song to say hello. Following the greeting is a sharing with each other. This promotes empathy and connects one girl to another. They suddenly find that both share the same favorite dessert, or have multiple pets in common. Building empathy is a subject I will write about frequently. See the article below that expresses the importance of teaching empathy in school settings.

Responsive Classroom


Why Empathy needs to be a part of school curriculum

New this year in our lower school it the use of “Toolbox”, a program designed to give children access to their own “inner tools” in order to better navigate daily personal challenges. In their words, “It is an inside-out approach illuminating children’s ability to manage their own emotional, social, and academic success by giving them access to the inner tools that empower them.” The power of saying hello needs to be followed by the power to use words and empathy to build those greetings into strong relationships. Look for more information about how “Toolbox” is changing the way our girls express themselves and build inner resilience. Below is a link to their website. The introductory video is particularly informative and endearing!


Toolbox by Dovetail learning


As Kevin Fittinghoff relates in his article, the need to feel connected, understood, and acknowledged never leaves us. I look forward to greeting each of you, parents and caregivers in our greater community, with a hello and warm welcome whenever you pass through our campus. Stop by soon!

I hope that my communication with you encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your children. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.

  • What was the message from this week’s Morning Meeting with Mrs. Teeling? What do we mean by See, Think, Wonder? What was happening in the painting by Winslow Homer? What was the large structure, like a long pool noodle with a skirt, placed into the Pacific Ocean meant to do? What did Mrs. Teeling share with you at lunch about ocean plastic?
  • If you are in Kindergarten- What lessons does the calendar give you about how numbers work? What are two ways that you say “goodbye” to friends during Closing Circle?


  • If you are in First Grade- What book did you read out loud to a favorite stuffed friend this week? How did you create salad on a stick and what did your apple and honey creation wrapped in fresh sorrel from our gardens taste like?


  • If you are in Second Grade- What are the five senses? How did you explore the sense of smell last week? How does smell tie into lessons about biographies and Helen Keller?
  • If you are in Third Grade- What did you explore about multiplication this week? What book did you read with the therapy dog “Hannah” this week?
  • If you are in Fourth Grade- What do your literacy teachers mean by “Sign Posts” while reading novels? “Understanding Differences” is the theme for your early novel work- what does this mean to you?
  • If you are in Fifth Grade- What are the order of operations? How is it that so many classmates come up with different answers to these complex problems?

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