There’s that old saying that kids say the darndest things, and it’s so true. You never know what kids are going to say, especially at the middle school age level. Kids of that age group have the best humor and curiosity, all while dealing with the challenge of trying to figure everything out.
A student came up to me at school the other day and said, “ you know what Mr. Marotta, you’re just like Santa Claus. You greet everyone so warmly, and you know everyone’s name.” Is that not one of the nicest things someone can say to you? I felt so great about the student sharing that with me and it made me reflect on the practice.
I share this because that action is intentional and practiced. I don’t remember every kid’s name just because. I actually have a terrible memory. When I was 12 or 13, I had a terrible concussion and have had issues with recall. If I don’t write it down, I don’t remember it. (It’s also why I always carry a notebook.) I also don’t remember many things from my childhood. That being said I am very intentional about remembering people’s names. I repeat them out loud, and I repeat them to their face, and when they walk away I say their name to myself 6 or 7 times to try to burn it into my memory. It was so nice that the student noticed this.
The second part of this interaction was his comment about the warm greeting. This too is intentional and purposeful. I found this video very helpful. It is called the empathy film, under the surface. It reminds me of what people are experiencing, and what people could be going through in their lives. A warm greeting, a friendly smile, and an authentic “how are you?” can go a very long way in building relationships with people. While it feels as if I’m always busy at school and going somewhere or doing something, I do try to offer these warm greetings to staff, students and other school community members.
The great Joe Sanfelippo from Wisconsin always talks about the power of a single interaction. He says relationships are built “30 seconds at a time.” I too believe in this. These are two small strategies that you can use to help you in your interactions with others.
If I can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out at @andrewmarotta21 on Twitter. Summer retreats, district openings, and conferences are booking up. Contact me if you’d like me to be your next motivational speaker.