It’s a simple thing… someone at the front door greeting you when you arrive. Bringing that simple thing to the front door of a middle school, with fellow students doing the greeting while grumpy, tired classmates enter, was more of an undertaking than you might think, though.
But it’s working at Twin Falls Middle School, spurred on by the determination of two dedicated students and one enthusiastic ASB/Leadership teacher.
Parent Meg Barlament recently sent us a video and alerted us to the door greeter program, saying everyday students start their day with high fives, smiles and music.
So we got curious and wanted to know how thing program launched and the effect it’s having.
Turns out, its roots are traced to the TFMS Leadership/ASB enrichment class. Teacher Jared Burrow said it started when the school changed the focus of ASB to developing young leaders using an intentional character building curriculum called CharacterStrong. That transformed the program to ‘servant leadership’ rather than the more typical ASB activities like working on posters and other activities.
That new curriculum sparked things.
Mr. Burrow explained, “One of the pillars of the leadership program is providing students with the time and safe space to learn how to shift their thinking in school and in life to be more others focused.”
He also said now that they have more kids steadily enrolled in ASB, instead of 30 new kids every quarter, the effectiveness of the program’s activities have really taken off. In addition to their door greeter program, the kids also write random notes of encouragement, participate in character dares and write RavenGrams.
Now back to those door greeters.
It may sound easy, but greeting students at the front door each day with a smile is something that took persistence and work – and Mr. Burrow said two particular 7th grade girls have been critical to the program’s success: Tate Baker and Paige Lee, who also just happen to be cousins.
It started in 6th grade when the girls were at a leadership conference when they saw a video about a high school door greeter program. Paige said the students in the video “really made people around their school happier, smiling and just making a difference.” Tate said she was deeply inspired and wanted to “make people happy in the morning – thinking it could be a good way to make school feel more fun and safer.”
Mr. Burrow described what’s at the heart of the program: “Door greeting is a way that regardless of where a student may have come from – whether hardship at home, overwhelmed by testing, or just the stress of being a teenager in this society – they know that there will be people who are consistently there to encourage them.”
So for almost two years now – in rain/ice/snow or shine AND getting to school almost an hour early – Tate and Paige have been standing at the front door of Twin Falls greeting classmates as they enter the building.
And at the beginning it wasn’t easy. Mr. Burrow said it was very frustrating at first, with kids ignoring the greeters, not high-fiving them back, or just being rude. Tate said even when kids said ‘You Suck’ she and Paige brushed it off and “never stopped smiling.”
The girls kept at it – and eventually more students joined them as at the front doors. Tate said now, over a year into the program, fewer people are rude and more are high-fiving or saying “Good Morning” back.
Door greeters is something Paige says she plans to carry out for the rest of middle school – and hopefully high school. She said many people ask why she does it. Her answer: “Because I care. If I don’t, who will? And if there’s no one to bring our world out of this negative, sarcastic and depressing cycle then nothing will change.”
Tate said she’s very proud of the environment they’ve created at Twin Falls and and hopes others will carry it on when she and Paige move onto high school, explaining, “I truly believe that kindness always wins, and the smallest things really do make the biggest difference.”
Mr. Burrow also agrees. Morning greeters has become the morning standard at TFMS and he loves it. They’re even playing music and kids not even in leadership are joining in the greeting. He added, “These students positivity and character are contagious and our school is the better for it.”
Of course, Mr. Burrow also credits Tate and Paige, because he said without out these two dedicated 7th grade girls, the door greeter program would not have grown into what it has become.
Nice job Twin Falls Middle School!