While it may not be unusual for students to meet their teachers at school before the first day, teachers at Black Fox Elementary School just met their students in a way that is not as common — at their houses.
The teachers took part in their school’s “Meet and Greet Day” on Thursday, going to the homes of each student to welcome them to Black Fox for the school year.
This was the second year the school has done these back-to-school meet and greets, and Principal Kim Fisher said she got the idea from a school in Henderson, Ky., that started doing something similar.
Fisher said that, to her knowledge, Black Fox is the only school in the state of Tennessee that has embraced the idea of going door to door to meet students where they live before the first day of school.
“We do a whole day of nothing but building relationships,” Fisher said. “This whole day is about having a positive start to the year.”
Teams of about four teachers each were assigned to different neighborhoods and given lists of the students who lived there. Fisher said she tries to make sure each team has a driver, a navigator, a “dog whisperer” and an “Avon lady personality,” someone who is not afraid to enthusiastically knock on doors.
Families were notified beforehand that the teachers would be visiting and were able to opt out if need be. However, Fisher said the majority of them welcomed the opportunity for their students to have their teachers meet them where they reside.
Piling into vehicles laden with bright orange bags containing things like school lunch menus, calendars and treats for the kids, they were to go to each home on their list to meet their students.
Teachers met the students and learned who lived in each home, and the students and their parents had the chance to ask any questions they had about school starting.
Students and their families would later be invited to the school for another back-to-school event, where the students would be able to meet their teachers if they had not already and receive gifts of school supplies from the school’s church partner.
Prior to leaving to go to the students’ homes Thursday morning, some teachers expressed their excitement about going because they said last year’s event, the very first one, went well.
While she admitted there is still plenty for teachers to do to ready their classrooms for school to start Aug. 8, she said taking the time to meet students “on their own turf” was time well spent.
“It’s terrific,” second-grade teacher Laura Calfee said. “I think it shows the parents and students that you care ... It is the best use of any of our time.”
Fisher agreed, explaining that building good relationships with students is vital to having a successful school.
While it was not a typical teacher in-service day, Fisher said it also offered the teachers a good chance to get to know each other. She said she was told some groups of teachers took the time to brainstorm new ideas for their classrooms in between houses last year, and she was “surprised” to learn that even time spent in a car can make for a good professional development opportunity.
Some teachers said the visits last year gave students valuable insights into the lives of their students, which helped them better relate to students. Teachers don’t typically get to see what their students’ home lives are like.
“You sort of get some background on them,” said Jason Humberd, a second-grade teacher. “It really is about building relationships.”
The excitement for the event has gone both ways. Some students Calfee said she met last year seemed excited to meet teachers outside school. Some “think you live at school,” she quipped.
Fisher said the annual event is a valuable one because it shows the students and their families that the teachers are willing to go out of their way to show the students they care about them and are receptive to their questions.
She added that she would love to see other schools adopt the idea and start school next year by visiting with students at home. She said she has noticed a difference in the way students have interacted with their teachers since the school went from just having students visit the school to the teachers also visiting them.
“Schools are about relationships,” Fisher said. “This has a huge impact.”
She said she was thankful for the teachers’ excitement and the families’ willingness to open their doors for them.
Fisher also expressed her thanks to the local CiCi’s Pizza restaurant, which donated free lunch buffet passes for the teams of teachers to enjoy after meeting the students.