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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hinds

Foyer Triage- Improving Your School Culture and Climate at the Beginning of Each Day

Updated: May 26, 2023

All right, today's topic: foyer triage. Foyer triage is a system (routine if you want to call it that) where every member of your leadership team is in the foyer every morning before school starts, triaging whoever comes through the door. Now I was a principal for 17 years in three very different schools, from 10% economically disadvantaged to 95% economically disadvantaged, and this concept worked at all of my schools. I didn't know to do this at the beginning of my career and had to learn it over several years. I hope that you can take this concept (or seed of this concept) and adapt it to work for you, without having to figure it out over several years as I did. You could start the next school year with this process (this system) in place.

At my schools, all of the staff and students had to enter basically through one place: the front doors. If you have a secondary school, you're going to have to take this concept and adjust it to your campus because some of you are running small cities. But here's the concept: every one of my students and every one of my staff came through the front doors. Every morning, I unlocked and opened the doors, and I would have my assistant principal, counselors, family specialists, and Communities in School representatives there with me. Anyone who could be with me in the front hall, I got them there. Here's why:

When your community and staff know you're going to see them every day (and that it’s important to you that you see them every day), at least they have something to look forward to. Their boss, their supervisor, the person who is leading the school cares enough about them to be in the front foyer every morning before they walk through the door… that means something. Don't miss that opportunity! The people who join me (basically my leadership team) are excitedly waiting for our students and staff to walk through those doors. It's not just for students and it’s not just for staff. As we see people come through the door, we're looking at their faces, their body language, and the way they're dressed.

Take students for example: If you have a student who comes in and the sole is coming off the bottom of their shoe, they're probably not at their best that morning. I want my kids to walk in with pride. I want my kids to be happy. So when they come in and their shoes are falling apart, a family specialist immediately focuses on them. They take that child to their office to get them a new pair of shoes because we as a team feel that a child is much more likely to walk with pride when they feel taken care of. If a faculty member comes in and they don't have that bounce in their step that they usually do, my counselor (God bless them, that's why they're counselors) already knew to go and talk to that person. Not to ask, “How are you doing this morning?” but to say, “Hey, something's different. Talk to me.” It's not a question, it's a, “Talk to me. Let me help you out.” A side note: if you've got extra duties on your counselor, please take them off. They are at their best when they can counsel. The more you can let them be at their best, the more your campus is going to benefit.

If a bus driver comes in and has two boys by the shirt collar, my assistant principal deals with it right then and there. “These two boys were in a fight on the bus.” “Done. Next?” But again, we want to go through the appropriate disciplinary process so that they can calm down and then get to the classroom with the best attitude possible. That's what I mean by triage: we're solving all of these problems first thing in the morning. Fixing them, creating a plan with the students, etc… so that when the adult or the student gets to the classroom, they're in much better shape than when they walked through the door. It's an incredible opportunity you don't want to miss. If you've got an upset parent, they know where to find you every morning. They don't have to call the Superintendent; they don't have to call your secretary and yell at her. If they're angry, they know exactly where to find you every morning. You’re a presence in that foyer; the leader and the one who cares. Any faculty member, student, parent, or community member should be able to recognize your face and know where they can reliably find you to work through challenges or provide feedback.

You have the power to create an opportunity. Please don't blow this one, it's huge. You're going to save your teachers a world of hurt on some days. Especially on a day when it's thundering and lightning outside. The kids can come in, calm down, follow the tone you set for the morning, and arrive ready to learn with their teachers. The learning can begin sooner when you triage in the foyer.

To learn more about this topic you can view my short video on Foyer Triage here.

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