High Fives – a Convert

I have to say, when I listened to Glenn Waddell talk about giving high fives as his learners entered the classroom, I was a little skeptical. I thought it wouldn’t be my thing. I thought that I would be copying another teacher in my building (who gives handshakes to students as he is in the the hallway) and that might be weird. But, if you listen to Glenn describe it, I thought it would be a good thing to try.

As school approached, I really started to get nervous about doing high fives. What if the kids saw it as copying the other teacher giving handshakes? Was this “my thing?” – would it seem disingenuous to my students? I almost didn’t do it.

I am proud to say that I am a member of…


(Thank you @conniehamilton.)

We have had five days of school and I have been at my door each period, waiting with a high five for my students. I have a few that prefer to fist bump, and I am fine with that. My observations:

My Calculus students, who I thought would care the least about the high fives / have the worst reaction to them, actually love them the most, I think. I didn’t make it to the door on time today and they hunted me down in the classroom to get their high fives. They are the first class I have each day. It warms my heart to watch their reactions to high fives each day.

It amazes me how many students will be walking up to my class with a frown or serious look on their faces and when they see me with my hand extended for a high five, they smile. That makes me happy.

After five days of being at the door and high fiving students, students are positioning their books to be ready to give me a high five as they approach my class. I have had students high five me in the hall when I am not at my door and walking in the hallway (when I don’t have a class). It makes me smile.

I was trying to put my finger on why high fives are working for me. It comes back to a conversation I had with Christopher Danielson and John Golden at the TMC15 Barbeque Friday evening. I cannot remember how the conversation started, but we were talking about Christopher’s statement, “Find what you love. Do more of that.” I had said that I thought I loved community but when it came to teaching math, I didn’t think that was what I loved. I thought I loved doing puzzles. John had asked something along the lines of “Why not community?” or in other words, why couldn’t I love community to the point that I did more of that in my classroom. My response was that I wasn’t sure.

But as I see how things have gone so far in the first five days, maybe it is community that I want to build more of into my class. Not to the point that it’s all touchy-feely and rainbows and unicorns, though. High-fiving helps to build community in my classes. It’s about the community, stupid, remember?

I am a high five convert. Thanks, Glenn.

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4 thoughts on “High Fives – a Convert”

  1. This whole post made me so happy. I was on the fence a little too about whether to try it next week. You convinced me. I definitely will. I love how you tied it to “it’s about the community, stupid.” Brilliant. I love it.

  2. Glenn says:

    Lisa, Thank you for the kind words. I really wish I had some solid research on how and why it works, but for now we will have to settle for the fact that it does. You are amazing! Keep the awesome work you do.

  3. Timothy DiLeo says:

    As a coach, I know there is nothing more important to my players than positive reinforcement. They even need a positive twist when they do something wrong. One of my own basketball coaches had a profound effect on me in this area. I missed one of two free throws at the end of the game that would have tied the game and gone into overtime. Needless to say I felt like a loser. My coach came up to me, asked if I was alright, gave me a high five, and said “you’ll make it next time, I have no doubt.” It didn’t immediately take the pain away, but that high five made me feel like I had someone in my corner. Students are no different. In fact, a student probably makes more mistakes in a day than an athlete. They need even more high fives. Don’t be shy to give them. Give knuckles, make up a secret handshake, give out coupons for free high fives that they can use with each other or the teacher. I love this post. I am a big high fiver and know what they mean to these kids.

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