Why We Shake Hands with our Students When they Leave for the Day

When I introduced my son a few months ago to a new friend,  he unthinkingly stuck out his hand to shake theirs. John didn’t think much of it. It’s normal in his world, the world of a former Montessori student. But my friend was a little surprised and impressed. All because of a teenager spontaneously offering his hand to politely say hello!

At Sunrise Montessori, all of our Primary classrooms (ages 3 – 5 years old) participate in a Grace and Courtesy staple called handshaking. When the parent has arrived to pick up their child, the child goes to their teacher to say goodbye and shake their hand. Why do we do this?

Handshaking is a formal greeting: We have many forms of saying hello and goodbye in America…waving from across the room, high fiving, hand bumping, hugging, saying the word, and then the well known  handshake Think about it, if you are introduced to a stranger, how do you typically say hello or goodbye? You will probably shake their hand, so our children need to learn it, too.

It teaches the child how to perform a proper handshake: This is a learned skill set! You walk up to the person, smile, put out your hand, grasp their hand when offered, look at their face, say goodbye, and pump their hand up and down a little with a firm (but not too firm) grip.

It lets the teacher know that a child is leaving her care: Occasionally a parent will open the door to a classroom, see their child, motion to the child that it’s time to go, and leave. We greatly appreciate parents who let us know they have arrived. There may be something we need to tell them. It also lets us know their child is leaving for the day. Children watch what we do to learn how to act. Saying goodbye at pick up is a skill they need to function in our society as their grow older. Let’s show them now.

It‘s as old as time: The handshake started over 1,000 years ago to let the other person know you weren’t holding a weapon and came in peace. It developed over time into a polite way to say hello.

It’s part of the Montessori Curriculum: We teach our students at Sunrise Montessori many forms of Grace and Courtesy or otherwise known as good manners. From how to sneeze politely (into your shoulder) to pushing in their chair when they leave a table, good manners like shaking hands never gets old and can carry them further in life.

I have heard many, many times over the years from elementary teachers that they KNOW when one of their students is from a high quality Montessori school. Montessori-educated children try to figure things out on their own first, they are typically ahead in academics, and they help others easily and often. They also regularly mention that when they met them for the first time, the child, unprompted!, puts her hand out to shake theirs. Shaking hands is so much more than a greeting. It’s the signal of maturity, showing respect for others, and showing respect for yourself. It says a lot about a child who can shake someone’s hand goodbye. But here at Sunrise, it’s just part of our normal day.




Sunrise Montessori Preschool has two locations in Round Rock. Interested in learning first hand what we can offer your child? Then book a tour on our website at Sunrise-Montessori.com or call us so you can discover why Sunrise Montessori Preschool is where YOUR family belongs!