Saturday, August 11, 2018

Am I Welcome?

It's back-to-school time for many of us! In my district, students will start on Wednesday. As students, families, and even teachers come into the building after the summer break, there is a question that many are subconsciously asking.

Am I welcome here?

Can I be myself here? Will I be accepted, with all of my strengths, weaknesses, and quirks? Will people care about me? Will I make friends? Will I be left out? Is this a safe place for me?

Am I welcome here?

As I walk into a school, what cues do I use to help me answer that question?
  • What does the space physically look like? Does it look kid-friendly? Are there lots of signs, rules, & regulations?
  • How am I greeted? Am I even greeted? Is it with a smile? Do I feel like a guest, or like somebody who is interrupting others just to ask how to sign in?
  • Do I know where to go? Are there signs? Does anyone offer to help me find my way?
  • As I observe others in the building, are they happy to be there, or does it look like a struggle? Are there procedures in place? Do kids know the expectations of different areas?
  • What is on the walls of the hallway? Are they boring and institutional, or are they used to display and foster learning?
  • Does this place have its own culture, history, and identity? Is it a generic "school", or do they have pride in who they are?

Am I welcome here?

As a traveling ed tech specialist, I get to go to many buildings. They all have a different feel - part of the fun is seeing how each building has its unique identity! Some schools are older, some are newer, some are more strict, and some are more flexible. All of these are okay! And every school, no matter where they fall on those spectrums, can be welcoming. But the flip-side is also true - and I have seen both.

I had the privilege of visiting a school for the first time since I subbed there (once!) about eight years ago, and it immediately struck me as such a welcoming space. Even though students aren't there yet and most teachers were in training, I came in and was greeted by the office staff. I was a little early for my meeting, and I was welcome to sit down and wait (and get some work done!) in any of several places. I ran into a teacher, who gave me a tour of the building, told me about some of the work they are doing, and introduced me to other staff members. I saw smiles and waves, and was able to talk to several people around the building. I did not feel like an intruder - I felt like an outsider who was being welcomed in. And it felt good!

I know life can get busy. Spaces get neglected, we get absorbed in our work, and we don't always have time to give a tour. But education is a people business, and people are the most important thing. Even in the midst of a crazy day, we can always smile & greet people warmly, and let them know that,

"Yes, you are welcome here."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this timely post, Aubrey. Before school begins, I'll use your ideas to walk around the campus & look at it through the eyes of the Ss arriving on the first day. That first impression sets the tone for the year & I definitely want it to be warm & welcoming!