As teachers, we get the chance to meet students while they’re in a very unique phase of life. Many of them are still learning how to communicate. I don’t just mean language and vocabulary (though that is a big part). I’m talking about the willingness to be transparent and the understanding to communicate what you really think. Whether it’s because they’re still building their self-awareness, or simply due to peer pressure, students may have difficulty voicing what they want from their time in class.
So readers, let me help you out and clue you in to five things your students want you to know.
They Want to Be Involved in Learning
All students want to be an active partner in their own learning. Sure, not every student wants to act out an historic scene or create a diorama, but to truly enjoy learning, you have to be invested somehow. Find an authentic way to engage students actively and equally as a learning partner. Customize content to activities they’re already vested in or offer alternative assessment options that require active participation. Get them out of the desk and into the science lab. They’ll thank you later.
They Want You to Be Honest
Adults tend to keep things from kids. We don’t want to give them more information than they can handle, and sometime kids are genuinely not ready to deal with the realities of our world. Still, kids can be pretty perceptive, they’ll sense when we’re not being honest. So, when you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. Then, work together to find it. If you’re having a bad day, don’t try to hide it. You can’t always be truthful about what is going on, but you can always be truthful about how you feel.
They Want to Be Challenged
If you asked a student whether they’d rather have an easy “A” or a hard-earned “B,” they’ll almost certainly say the easy “A.” Nobody is going to ask for challenging work that pushes them beyond their comfort zone. But they need it, and deep down, they actually crave it. Never back away from challenging your students. Encourage them to persevere and resist the urge to throw them the lifeline. When you conquer something easy for you, you feel proud; when you conquer something challenging for you, you feel unstoppable!
They Want to Do Good
Every student has the potential to make a positive impact on the world (yes, even that student). Unfortunate, students are rarely given the opportunity to enact meaningful change. Try connecting what you’re teaching to a cause that your students care about. Teaching finance? Inform your class about life-saving microloans and raise funds for someone in need. Teaching language? Brighten the day of some senior citizens by having your class send them handwritten letters. Not sure of how to connect your lesson to the world around you? Check out some ideas with help from Blue Apple!
They Want to Know They Matter
More than anything, students are human, and the one thing all humans want is to know that they matter. It takes strength beyond their years to come right out and ask if they matter to you, so they’re unlikely to voice this, but know that they are always—ALWAYS—wondering it.
So, remember to affirm this unspoken need. Tell them as a class, tell them as individuals. Tell them any way you like: You’re special and you matter to me. When it is all said and done, you’re not teaching Math or Reading or Science or Social Studies. You are teaching children. And if they learn this one thing—that they matter—you’ll have done them an invaluable service.