Why I FistBump

In our class every lesson starts the same way:

psych-shawn-gus-fist-bumps .

Every student, every lesson. Comes to me and we perform the “bro-iest” of moves, the FistBump. It’s the most important part of the lesson.

I know it seems corny. Like I’m trying to be a cool sitcom teacher or something. I’m not down with the kids. In the words of Abe Simpson:


My reasons for the FistBump are grounded in much nerdier, pedagogical ideas.

There’s several reasons I use the FistBump.

 1. Respect

I don’t speak at length about classroom behaviours at the start of the year. The only thing I ask is that students are respectful in my classroom.

  • I ask that they respect me in my place of work.
  • I ask that they respect their peers right to learn.
  • I ask that they respect themselves enough to give each lesson their all.
  • In return, I respect them as individuals and give them my all each lesson.

My students and I understand that each lesson, each fistbump is a renewal of that commitment to respect.


2. It Fosters Relationships

You can tell a lot from a FistBump.

  • A hearty FistBump with a big hello. (looking good champ)
  • Limp wristed FistBump with eyes cast downwards. (rough day huh?)
  • The FistBump while talking to friends. (time to focus buddy)

Getting a good gauge on what sort of headspace each student is in t the start of a lesson is great.


3. We negotiate our individual learning goals.

I run a Flipped Mastery classroom. This means that each student is at a different stage of their learning each lesson. I need to find out fast where each student is. What better way to do that than to ask them?

At this point, I should tell you that each FistBump is accompanied by a question.

“Hey man, what are you learning today?”

If they can’t answer that question, I send them back out the door to think about it. Usually, however, they can say something like…

“I’m having trouble with the distance formula, can I get a hand?”
“I think I’m ready, can I do a diagnostic test?”
“I’ve got this easy stuff sorted, can you give me some really hard questions please?”

Imagine a class where every student states their learning goal, in their own words, the minute they walk in the door! Sure, those aren’t textbook “learning goals”, but they mean something to the student, and that’s when learning goals work best.

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One final thing.

If you do add the FistBump to your teaching repertoire, don’t forget to always save one last FistBump for after the final bell rings…


Self FistBump! You earned it.


  1. Love that you fist bump Joel and I have lots of younger male colleagues that successfully connect with their students in similar ways but I think it is a very personality dependent approach. If my teacher tried to fistbump me as I was lining up to go into class it would have made me feel quite threatened and …well… awkward. It still feels awkward. As an introverted serious middle aged women I find the motherly approach easier to manage … not as cool but less weird on me than a blokey fistbump. I love the way you incorporate individual learning goals so efficiently though. How do you remember 25-30 individual goals? I need to take notes for my class of 29 so I generally do it during the homework check.

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