This Teacher's Handshakes With Students Went Viral

by Ann-Derrick Gaillot

It seems like happy news stories are few and far between so far in 2017. And while we've come to expect the worst from news stories about schools and teachers, there's one story out of North Carolina that will give you some hope for the future. As reported by ABC News and Good Morning America, fifth grade English teacher Barry White, Jr. of Ashley Park Elementary School in Charlotte has a personalized handshake with each one of his students. And watching him greet his students before class will make you wish you had had him as a teacher in middle school.

Some handshakes are more elaborate than others, but each is unique, with some incorporating popular dance moves like the dab and the Milly Rock into the mix. White performs the handshakes with each student, which they call their "good mornings," before they enter the classroom and begin the day's lessons.

In a time where personalized attention for each student is a hard goal to achieve, White has found a way to make sure every student feels seen and known as an individual. And while it's not an official designation, White has pretty much risen to the status of coolest teacher ever.

White told ABC that he was inspired by LeBron James, who also has unique, personalized handshakes with his teammates. White wanted to bring sense of closeness and trust shared by the players on the Cleveland Cavaliers to his classroom. ‌

And judging by the video of kids lined up to perform their handshakes with him, the students are just as into the pre-class bonding ritual as White is. But more than being fun, White's dedication to building trust between him and his students is crucial, especially in a time when issues of class size, curriculum, and security have threatened that trust in many schools.

"The most critical component is the relationship, the rapport you build with your students because sometimes it can go underrated or overlooked," White told Charlotte's WCNC news. "Before I'm able to deliver a substantial amount of content to them, they have to invest in the teacher." White's teaching philosophy is backed up by several studies that show that positive teacher-student relationships lead to better outcomes for students in the short and long term, inside and outside the classroom.

It's only a matter of time before teachers around the world start taking a page out of White's book and making their own personalized handshakes with each of their students. And that's a good thing. As for the class of fifth graders that started the trend, hopefully their teachers continue to be as dedicated and inspiring as White seems to be. May they all never forget those handshakes.