A new school shooting dominates the headlines nearly every month, and in response, schools have amped up security, adding mandatory metal detectors at their entrances and hiring armed guards to patrol the hallways. Some have even gone as far as arming teachers with handguns. With all the hysterics surrounding school safety nowadays, positive, normal stories about going to school are more necessary than ever before. Everyone can benefit from being reminded that schools are places for kids to learn and socialize with their peers---not detainment facilities.
Perhaps this explains why a video of kindergartners shaking one another's hands has gone viral recently.
The video was posted by Ashley Coston Taylor, a North Texas kindergarten teacher who has taught for the past 18 years. In it, Taylor's students perform a heartwarming morning ritual that Taylor has implemented in her classroom. Each morning, a different student is assigned to be the class "greeter." The greeter stands in front of the classroom door and welcomes each student with a friendly handshake as they arrive. Some students even add a quick hug after their handshake. The friendliness is infectious.
Taylor said that the exercise "teaches the greeter and the rest of the class good manners and that 'someone is on their side,'" according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She also added, "The school shootings have been a real eye-opener. Maybe if some of those kids had felt like someone was on their side, things would have happened differently. I understand there are lots of factors that play into those situations. But what if, you know?"
Taylor has a point. Nearly every school shooter, most notably the infamous Columbine killers, has been described by their classmates as a social outcast. For many, social isolation is something that begins in early childhood, often for trivial, childish reasons, and continues into adolescence and adulthood. Once a person falls into the role of the outcast, it can be almost impossible to break out of it.
Of course, many people become outcasts for legitimate reasons---social exclusion is fundamentally a tool by which humans control and regulate behavior within a group. But perhaps by encouraging classroom-wide interaction among her kindergartners, Taylor is helping start her students off on the right foot, thereby preventing many from falling into arbitrary isolation at the beginning of their educational careers. A simple gesture---a handshake, a hug, a smile---could have a dramatic effect on the course of a child's life. You never know.
Many people on Twitter seemed to love the idea, and other teachers who have implemented similar exercises in their own classrooms were quick to chime in.
What do you think? Could a handshake every morning cure the loneliness and isolation that seems to be afflicting more and more of our children these days? Or is the issue more complicated than that?