The lowly fist bump, offered as students file out of your classroom, is arguably the easiest way to build rapport.
It’s also super effective.
It cleans the slate.
No matter what happens during class, no matter how strongly you challenge your students or raise your standards, the end-of-day fist bump says that it’s all in the past.
There are no grudges. You may continue to ask more of them, day after day, but rest assured, there are never any hard feelings. The fist bump wipes it all clean.
It requires reciprocation.
Although offered and never forced, a fist bump requires students to reach out toward you. It’s an act of faith and reciprocation.
It’s a choice they make showing that they’re buying into what you’re selling and asking of them. It’s acknowledgement that you’re all on the same team.
It includes eye contact and a smile.
Eye contact, especially when accompanied by a smile, makes a strong connection. It recognizes the student and let’s them know that you see them as a person and individual.
It also enhances your likability and confirms your choice to see the best in your students. In other words, it requires you to accept and care for them equally.
It ensures you reach every student.
Some students are naturally quiet. Some you rarely need to speak to, especially if you have a large class size.
The end-of-period fist bump ensures that you make a quick check-in with every student every day. That one or two-second bond means a lot to them and, you’ll find, to you too.
It grows over time.
The first time you offer a fist bump can feel awkward, for both you and them. But over time, it becomes natural.
The camaraderie, you’ll discover, won’t be just between you and your students, but it will grow among them as well. They’ll begin to fist bump each other—often and for the same reasons.
It lowers stress.
A simple tap of the knuckles, like all touch, decreases cortisol and increases serotonin. It relaxes the central nervous system and makes us feel good.
Combined with the message “I see you,” it becomes indispensable—so much so that if you forget or are busy with something, your students will go out of their way to make sure you bump fists.
Smart phones and social media have had a negative impact on the frequency of physical contact among friends and family. You can see it at any airport.
The pandemic has only made it worse. Yet, touch is so healthy. It’s vital to our well being and innate to our desire for human connection.
For teachers, fist bumps, hand shakes, and high fives are the only appropriate methods of touch.
But the fist bump stands alone because students still think it’s cool. It’s evolved, however, into less of a knuckle “punch” and more of a tap of the area on the bottom of the hand between the little finger and the wrist.
However you do it, just do it.
Every day, as soon as the dismissal bell rings, stand at your door, smile, make eye contact, and offer your fist to every student.
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