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The Power of Hello

The Power of Hello

By Rebecca Hotchkiss, Promise Fellow at Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary SchoolHello graphic

I am constantly surprised at the power of greeting a kid positively. There is a student at my
site who is almost always receiving negative feedback. Yesterday, I witnessed her getting held back from a fight where her peers pulled her hair out. I witnessed her getting screamed at by a teacher. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen her angry, her face crumpled and eyebrows drawn. Her experience at school is not a happy one.

Noticing all this, I decided I could be someone to give her positive feedback. Every day, as I’m checking off the attendance of my focus list students, I make a point to say good morning to this student and say goodbye to her at the end of the day. Every time I see her in the hallway I ask her how she is doing and listen to what she has to say. I look for moments to give her praise. I don’t think too much about doing this. She is not on my focus list; I simply do these things when I see her. But she’s started to smile when she sees me. She gave me a hug out of the blue a few days ago. A simple greeting has put a smile on the face of a girl who was almost always angry.

What this experience reminded me was the power I have just as a simple human being. Many times while serving, I feel unprepared or unequipped to handle the challenges my students present, but I don’t need to have all the answers to make a difference in the lives of the students at my school. I just need to say hello.

[From “Voices From the Field: Reflections from Minnesota Alliance With Youth’s AmeriCorps Promise Fellows.” Fall 2014.]

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