This past Fall I was traveling solo to a conference in a city I had not visited before. It had been a long day and as I wearily approached the front desk at the hotel I was staying at, I was greeted by the desk clerk with an infectious smile and a warm welcome. He immediately asked how my day was in a manner that was genuine. Why did this surprise me? Isn't this the greeting you would expect from the hospitality industry? It was all in the manner in which it was given. It wasn't a forced smile or a routine, "How are you?" It was real and I felt it. It didn't end there. With a flick of the wrist he revealed a fanned out hand of playing cards and enthusiastically asked, "Would you like to see some magic?!" Little did this guy know who he was talking to! My reply, "Heck yes, I'm ready for some magic!" Immediately, my fatique was replaced by a burst of energy as I waited eagerly for this kind man to entertain me with his card trick. I was captivated as he performed his trick with skillful sleight of hand and magically revealed the card that I had secretly identified at the beginning. Wow! I was amazed! After the magic trick, he asked if there was anything else I needed to make my stay more comfortable and he had me on my way with my key and wifi password. Within minutes a weary traveler went from exhausted to energized all because of someone's hospitality and passion for his work.
Hospitality is defined as, "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers." In the book Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business author Danny Meyer states, "Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side." In this business transaction, I definitely was made to feel like the desk clerk was on my side. He was skillful at making me feel a range of emotions within a very short amount of time: laughter, curiosity, comfort, excitement, and joy. I left the front desk knowing that he was on my side; he would ensure that my stay was enjoyable. Now THAT is hospitality at it's finest!
As I reflected on the hospitality I received during my stay, it made me think about the importance of hospitality in our schools. How do our students feel when they enter? Do they believe we are on their side? How different would our schools be if students were all greeted with as warm and memorable of a welcome as I did checking into a hotel?
The following three elements characterize the hospitality I encountered during my hotel stay. Let's look at each and think about how they could translate to our classrooms:
Warm Welcome. He greeted me with a smile and a "How are you?" that was enthusiastic and genuine. I felt that he truly meant it. Our students recognize the authenticity of our interactions. They can see through fake smiles and forced "How are you's?". How are we greeting our students when they come into our classrooms? Are we welcoming students with excited and genuine smiles or are we pre-occupied with other tasks?
Entertaining Hook. After making me feel welcomed, the desk clerk surprised me by revealing a handful of cards and asking if I wanted to see a magic trick. It was unexpected and I was immediately intrigued and excited to participate. In Teach Like a Pirate, author Dave Burgess shares multiple presentation strategies designed to hook students and draw them into your lesson. This guy had his presentation strategy down! I was hooked! What hooks could you use in your lesson to engage students and get them fired up about learning? I highly recommend reading Teach Like a Pirate for a plethora of ideas to draw students into your content. This book has made a tremendous impact on my teaching practice.
Passion and Enthusiasm: Not only was I hooked with the entertaining magic trick, he did it with enthusiasm and passion! The desk clerk tapped into something he was passionate about and brought it into his work. Dave Burgess says, "Bringing your personal passion to the classroom empowers you to create a more powerful lesson because you are teaching from an area of strength". Magic was definitely one of his strengths! By bringing something he was passionate about into his everyday interactions he was empowered to create a powerful experience for me! Is there something that you are passionate about that you could incorporate into the classroom to bring excitement and a powerful experience for your students?
Though this experience took place a few months ago, it is a memory that will stick with me for a long time because of the hospitality I received. The desk clerk that I encountered that day brought the magic with a warm welcome, an entertaining hook, and a large dose of passion and enthusiasm! Our kids deserve our finest service. There is so much we can learn from the hospitality industry. How are we creating classrooms where students not only feel welcomed, but that we are on their side? Let's make every interaction count so that all students can experience the magic of hospitality!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.