Inspiring video of the ‘Handshake Teacher’ and his fifth grade goes viral


Barry White, Jr. is a fifth grade English teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. Earlier this month, he shared a video taken of him greeting his students in the morning before class. The video became an overnight hit, shared thousands of times, and Barry has since appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America.

You can watch the video here:

At KDSL Global we were lucky enough to catch up with Barry and ask him a few questions about his life as a teacher. 


When you watch the video, it’s impossible not to smile and to feel how much your students are enjoying this interaction with you. Why do you think they love it so much?My students love the message behind the handshakes more so the handshake itself. The handshake represents a personal moment that we both can share every day. They understand and appreciate the time and effort going into making a personalized handshake with each one of them and remembering it. They know I actually care even with a simple gesture such as a handshake.

What other ways can teachers reach out and engage with their students at the beginning of class/while teaching them? 
Building rapport with your students come in many different forms. It can be a simple compliment (clothes, academics, etc). As a teacher we are trained to be observant, this allows us to spot any changes happening with our students. Use this to leverage relationship building. Teachers can also leave notes on student’s desks for the next day. Simple printable signs that can encourage them to be the best student they can be that day.


Do you ever have a kid not wanting to do the handshake with you, refusing to do it? What are your strategies for working with kids who are difficult? 
Some children are a little shy and working their way out of it slowly but surely. Handshakes are not mandatory in my classroom. I allow students to opt-in if they feel comfortable enough. Through my classroom management techniques, I set the expectations and reinforce them with positive narration. For example: if the expectation is Level 0 voice and tracking the speaker, I will say Billy is level 0, Shawn is tracking the speaker. This allows the expectations to be heard in the classroom, so if a student is not meeting the expectation they will be given a consequence. There is no push back, because my voice does not change when giving a consequence, and due to the expectations being set firmly in the classroom. I let students know I care about them too much to allow them to fail or not meet expectations. Therefore I will consequence them to make sure they succeed. Once this message is clear and consistently affirmed, they buy into the concept. We have what we call “growth mindset” concepts applied in the classroom. Instead of getting upset at a consequence and blowing up, the student uses a growth mindset and learns from that mistake.


Are teachers and trainee teachers in the USA encouraged to develop original, personalized and fun ways of connecting with their students, rather than just focusing on the curriculum and exam grades? 
In some places, I believe teachers are encouraged to build rapport with their students. Particularly in my school district, we are constantly encouraged to build meaningful relationships and establish high expectations. We are allowed the freedom to express our creativity and be innovative in the classroom.



Thalia Suzuma
KDSL Global
Twitter: @KDSL07
Facebook: KDSL Global