At Ashley Park PreK-8 School in Charlotte, North Carolina, a fifth grade English teacher has an individual handshake with each of his students—every single one.
Barry White Jr. told ABC News about his elaborate and personal greetings. “I’m always pumped up, and then we start doing the moves and that brings them excitement, and energizes them for a high-energy class,” he explains. The handshake is different for every student. “They know when they get to the front door, we do our ‘good mornings, and then it’s time to get to work.”
It started with a single 4th grade girl who waited to shake hands with him every morning. At first it was a simple handshake, and sometimes the student got in trouble for being late to class because White was a bit late arriving for his handshake.
Then he started to make handshakes with the other kids at recess. “It was just one or two students,” he added. “I saw how much it meant to them, so I said: Come on. Everyone come on.” Then it quickly became more and more popular. At this point, his entire class is in on it, but it’s spread to kids from other classes as well—and now, he says, “I have 3rd graders wanting to do it too.”
He doesn’t struggle to remember all the handshakes either, “I have done it so much with them, it’s muscle memory at this point,” he said. “They love coming up to me and doing it.” When he sees the kids, he knows the moves that go with certain kids because they are based on their personality, he explains. “I started a step team at the school, some of my 5th graders I teach are on that step team, and you’ll notice we step a little bit in their handshakes.”
White was inspired by his favorite basketball player, LeBron James, doing individual handshakes with each of his team members of the Cleveland Cavaliers. “You see that bond and how close they are,” the teacher said of the Cavaliers. “I wanted to bring that feeling into the entire 5th grade.”
And, as you can see, it worked. The administration of Ashley Park PreK-8 School loves the enthusiasm his handshake ritual bring to the kids every day.
“Barry’s handshakes represent his own authentic take on building those relationships,” said principal Meghan Loftus. “When I walk into my teachers’ rooms, I see the impact of those strong and trusting relationships. That’s the culture we are building at Ashley Park.”
It helps the kids to feel safe, they know their teacher cares, and therefore, they are more engaged and attentive.
Video: Abc News