Ed note: This post has been updated from an early 2013 post.
As educators, we have a huge responsibility towards each child entrusted to us.
It is our duty to try our best to meet the needs of the students in our classroom and to help them become productive members of our communities. Sometimes we need to step out of our ‘teacher shoes’ and step into the shoes of a student to help us better understand them, since they are not always very adept at verbalizing their thoughts. Here are ten things you would learn from their point of view.
Teachers: This Is What I Need From You
1. I need to feel important.
I will notice if you always call on someone else more, praise them more, smile at them more, or talk to them more. I might not say anything about it, but I will think about it and feel less valued in your class. I will know that I am not your favourite and this will help to shape the way that I feel about myself as a person and as a learner. I need to feel like I belong in your class and in my school.
Even if I don’t always understand my academics very well, how you make me feel can be the difference it takes for me to stay in school and keep trying. I need to feel that I am part of the community and that I would be missed if I weren’t there.
2. I need you to care about me.
Please show an interest in the things that I share with you. You want me to show an interest in the things that you share, and I would like to know that you would do the same for me. Besides, the things that I share with you are important to me and help us to bond. Knowing that you care about those things will help me remember that I trust you and like you the next time I am having a bad day.
3. I need to care about my future.
I might not listen all the time or do what I should, but I want to live a happy life. Instead of making me feel like I am doomed for failure, please help me to feel like I have a place in this world and that I am worthy. I need you to believe in me more than you may realize. I sometimes tell myself how bad I am… please don’t agree with me, it would validate my negative thoughts. Also, don’t forget that I can hear you when you talk about me to others. Be kind.
4. I need to see past the work.
I’m sorry that I might not appreciate the ‘classics’, and haven’t been reading the chapters you have been assigning. That might be your favorite book, but for me it is destined to become ‘that book my teacher forced us to read’. Instead of making me feel like there is something wrong with me for not finding the material interesting, please try and teach me the value of learning about this instead.
Teach me to understand that it’s normal not to like everything, and tell me about the skills that I will gain from doing the work that aren’t related to enjoying the story.
5. I need to understand why.
I will ask you about the rules and why we need to follow them. Helping me to understand the reasons behind the rules will help me to see the value in them, and will help me to follow them even when I don’t really want to. When I break the rules and get into trouble, please help me to understand why my behaviour was wrong and help me to figure out alternatives for the next time. It may take practice, but I’ll try my best to be good even when it isn’t easy.
Sometimes I’ll fail. When I do, please don’t punish me in a way that makes me feel like you hate me, or in a way that embarrasses me and makes me feel ostracized. My punishment should help me, not hurt me.
6. I need you to protect me.
When my peers don’t like me and call me names, I need to know that I can come to you. Being bullied can hurt me, but it hurts even more to feel like I am alone in it. I know that you can’t always be there to stand between me and a bully, but I need to know that you will always be there to listen to me and to help me deal with things.
I know that you might not be able to stop the others from being mean to me, but I need to see you try. I need to hear you tell them that it is not acceptable and that you will not tolerate it. Please react when it happens in class, it will make me feel safer there. I don’t want to feel alone and unprotected.
7. I need you to make learning fun.
I want school to be an enjoyable and fun place to be. When teaching, can you please try to incorporate things that will be interesting to me? I love games, so maybe we could collect points or badges, or even progress to higher ‘levels’. It would be great if we could do lessons using games sometimes. You may never see me collaborate in a team better than when building a team ‘house’ in Minecraft!
Or maybe, if you can, would you bring in cool things for us to touch and figure out? I love to learn through play and exploration. I want to look forward to coming to class to hear what you have for us to do, as this will help me to build my future as a lifelong learner. I will continue to be curious when I leave your class.
8. I need you to be a model for me.
Actions speak louder than words. Please show me how you interact with others and conduct yourself in different situations. React to things the way you would like for me to react to them, because I am watching you and might reflect your behaviour when something similar happens to me. Don’t let me hear you talk about others in a negative way. You tell me that’s bullying and not to do it – it’s confusing to me when I see you doing it.
Above all, please teach me respect. I need to know how to respect other people, my school, my materials, the environment, and above all… myself. It may be one of the greatest lessons I learn.
9. I need to know that I can be myself.
I might not like the same things as most other people. The games I play and the stories I like to write might seem horrible or silly to other people, but they are not horrible or silly to me. If you make me feel like it is bad to like the things that I do, I will not stop liking them; but will instead feel guilty about liking them and stop sharing my ideas. Instead of making me feel like I am wrong or strange, please encourage me to be the best that I can be without having to completely change who I am.
Teach me about why things are considered appropriate or not, and how to judge what will be acceptable in different situations. You will have more success in teaching me how to embrace my likes and hobbies without offending others than you would in getting me to change what I like.
10. I need to build skills for my future.
Whatever it is I choose to do in my life, there are skills that I will need to be successful. Please do your best to teach me the things that I need to learn. I won’t always make your job easy, but I will appreciate your efforts when I am older. When I don’t understand, don’t give up on me. If you keep trying, I will too. Don’t let me get too discouraged by failure. Instead, teach me that failure is a normal part of life and that it doesn’t define who I am as a student or as a person.
Teach me to be resourceful. I will need to figure things out for myself in life. I might never achieve perfectly, but every step you help me to take now will make me that much more capable later.
I am worth it.
image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad and openclipart.org; Teachers, This Is What I Need From You