12 Things Kids Want from Their Teachers

Whether you are a teacher, parent, relative, boss, or fellow community member, each of us has a chance to make a positive and impactful difference in a child’s life.

But in order to do this, we must carefully consider this question:

What do you think matters most to our children?

For 20 years I have been posing this question to my students. At the beginning of every school year, I would ask my students to give me advice on how to be their best teacher. I asked them to think about the times they felt most successful and to consider what the adults in their lives did to make this success possible.

The classroom would become immediately silent as the students wrote intensely for longer than they had ever written before. Smiles would appear on their faces as they reflected on the happy experiences they were remembering. After reading their responses I would add to my list all the ideas they mentioned.

Surprisingly, many of the responses were the same. Year after year, in every grade level, content area and classroom I was in, regardless of demographics or background, students were saying the same things and had the same message: It’s the small things you do that mean the most.  That is what they remembered. That is what mattered.

Here is a list of the 12 Most Important things that came out of these amazing conversations:

1. Greet me each day

Wish me good morning, and send me off with a “see ya tomorrow.”

2. Smile

When you look at me, let me see happiness in your eyes.

3. Give me your attention

Sit and talk with me privately; even if only for a second.

4. Imagine with me

Help me dream of things I might be able to do; not just the things I need to do now.

5. Give me challenging content and assignments

Show me how to handle it. Teach me what to do.

6. Ask about me

Inquire about my weekend, the game a played, the places I go. It shows you care about my life.

7. Let me have time

Time to let things sink in. Time to think. Time to reflect, process, and play.

8. Demand of me

Hold me accountable to high standards. Don’t let me get away with what you know I am capable of doing better.

9. Notice Me

Leave special messages in my desk or locker. Just a quick not that says you notice something right.

10. Let me ask the questions

Even if my questions are off topic, let me ask them. It will show that I am thinking about new perspectives, curious, and willing to learn more. Let me have the chance to show what I am wondering about, not just what I know.

11. Engage me

I came to you in love with learning. Keep me excited, keep me wanting more.

12. Trust me

Believe that I can do it. Allow me the chance. I promise to show you I can.

These words did not fall on deaf ears. I collected them, honored them, and then promised I would do everything within my power to be the teacher they needed.

What matters to the children in your life?

It’s worth a conversation, I promise!

Cross Posted on 12 Most

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  • J

    What a teribly rude comment to make. This was a lovely post, written as a positive light, AND these ideas are from what students have told her. Keep in mind that these students may be at an elementary level, in which case a positive note in a desk could be acceptable. To say that this list is ridiculous is what is really ridiculous. Jonathan Bates, you are clearly not an educator, and if you are, God help our children. Stop being such a rude jerk.

  • Barb Bastys

    I’m so sorry you have to be so rude and negative. As a parent and grandparent helping children for 50 some years I can tell you that his post is more important than a child learning some of the core material that will never be used after leaving the doors of the school. Letting children know that their voice and feelings count will go a long way. It sounds to me like your the incompetent one and I’m so sad for your students.

  • Shaun Killian

    The act of asking your kids each year was a brilliant idea. The insight from the answers is fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shaun Killian

    The relationship you build with children has more impact on how well they do at school than many other factors including socio-economic status, teaching strategies and homework (see Hattie). Not prioritising time for those relationships is negligent.

  • Shaun Killian

    I love the ‘treat me as if I was your own’ add

  • http://www.angelamaiers.com AngelaMaiers

    This is absolutely right Shaun! It is not a luxury; it is a necessity!

  • FMiller

    If you are an educator, I would have to surmise that you are a poor one. As a teacher, I have always found time to make positive comments on papers, in journals, or in notes for every student. It’s only harassment or unprofessional if you’re making inappropriate comments. And yes, I managed to teach core content and tie it in with real world experiences. I managed to take notice and learn about each and every student. It’s called building rapport and in doing so you build a relationship with parents /guardians as well.

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