It’s Official: We’re Out of Ideas
This is just getting embarrassing now; the way administrators flail about in hopes of finding the right combination of gimmicks to turn their schools around. It would be merely funny if it wasn’t also guaranteed to cause additional unnecessary stress for teachers, waste their time, and generally contribute to the disingenuous atmosphere of the school.
Let me explain.
I was told of a new initiative at my old school by a friend. That there is a new initiative is not surprising; there are many every year and they hardly ever fail to not succeed. Most of them disappear within weeks or months; crushed to dust by the weight of their own silliness and the rational, passive non-compliance this elicits in teachers. The new initiative is this:
All teachers are required to shake hands with all students at the beginning of all periods.
If carried out, this policy would produce about 6000 extra total handshakes in the school per day and a yearly total of just over 1 million. No doubt this initiative is designed to demonstrate a coerced outward display of respect for students by teachers;
which will create a culture of mutual respect and aid in the community of scholars;
which will make everybody feel welcome and valued;
which will make everybody work hard so they can be successful in college.
Does that sound about right?
1) Germ transmission. Enough said;
2) It will cheapen the handshake as an actual sign of respect, agreement or greeting; much as the high school diploma has been cheapened and now means simply “I mostly showed up”;
3) It’s a gimmick. It’s not real and students will see this as fast as I did;
4) Wastes time. This takes a completely normal and accepted social custom and makes it uncomfortable and weird. Plus it unreasonably impinges on teachers’ time. I think it’s great if a teacher says hello by name to students as they come in the door. I would try to do this as I was setting up the projector, putting away materials from the last period, helping a student who had stayed a little late, etc. There are hundreds of things that a teacher might spend a few precious minutes on in between classes. But no more. Now they will stand by the door in this awkward, time-consuming, unsanitary ritual of ill-defined value and purpose. If you spend 15 minutes per day on this, chasing people around or otherwise waiting for people who don’t want to shake your hand, that’s 45 hours per year straight up your ass;
4) What if I do not comply? Someday very soon, a new teacher will have spent all night on a lesson she is very proud of. She is excited and nervous. Unbeknownst to her, there will be a hand-shaking spot check by the administration that day. Before class starts, she will discover a problem with the lesson. Materials are in the wrong order, she wrote the warm-up down incorrectly, computer issues…whatever. She will be busy fixing this and miss some hand shaking. She will be penalized for this and talked to later about her lack of preparation and respect for her students. I promise you this will happen;
5) Where does it stop? Do students who arrive late get a hand shake, too? Why shouldn’t they? What about the student who hasn’t been here for three days and now comes in 20 minutes late? He needs this. The students who don’t give a shit and show the least amount of respect for you and what you are trying to do should get the biggest handshakes and be made to feel the most super! Here, we should really just go straight in for the hug. Hold them tight and a little too long. Whisper to them of their intrinsic value and the bliss the will find as a fully integrated member of the scholarly collective;
6) Disrespects teachers and has questionable age appropriateness. My daughter’s first grade teacher did this last year, for 6 and 7 year-old kids. She made her own decision as a professional that this was something worth a try. Kids would have to stand in line to wait their turn. They would shake hands with the teacher and make eye contact. The teacher would say “Good morning, [child's name].” The child would say, “Good morning, Ms. Jan.” Then they could go into the classroom. (There was another teacher in the room as well.) In first grade, this is probably a great idea. Learning how to shake hands and look people in the eye. But if I have to introduce this idea to a 15- or 18-year-old, and teach him how to read and sit still, etc…I can’t fix all this.
In conclusion, I predict the Great CHEC Hand-Shaking Initiative of 2012 will die a natural death by November 2012 and will never be spoken of again. Bank on it.
Maybe it would be more successful if the principal stood by the main doors from 7:45 to 8:00 to shake teachers’ hands every morning. Perhaps she thinks that would seem disingenuous and believes she has better things to do to prepare for the day.