What I Know For Sure About Learning

Thanks to Jackie at Room 213 for organizing this blog hop!

It's so true, right?  When I think about my own experiences as a learner, the times that I made the most profound instructional gains were when I felt that my teacher truly knew me and believed in me as a student.  That's why I believe that the best learning always occurs when students feel a connection with their teacher...when they know that their teacher cares about them as a person.  

If you're reading this, then you already know that students don't care a bit about what they are being taught until they know that their teacher cares a bit about them.  Any teacher checking out a blog about learning and instruction is one who is invested in their profession.  So, the ideas that I'm about to share are probably not new...in fact, I bet you have a few ways that you build caring and compassion into your own instruction that I'd love to read about!  However, I hope that these ideas remind us all about why we became teachers in the first place.  

We love learning.  

We love students.  

And showing them both each day is what matters.

How often do you hand back a piece of student work to see them quickly scan for the grade and then toss it into a folder...or worse the garbage?  That's why I love writing students fun notes on their papers.  Instead of "good job," I like to write comments that show I know and care about them, like "Wow, use figurative language in your writing as well as you shoot 3-pointers!"

I'm a huge fan of making positive phone calls home.  They're such a wonderful way to build positive relationships with students and their families.  You can read all about it HERE.  

I love watching my students excel in the classroom, but for many of them their true talents are on display at the band concert, or on the soccer field, or during the school play.  That's why I try to reserve at least one night a month to attend students' extracurricular activities.  There's nothing better than the connection between that student and I the next day in class!

I've always heard that the best way to get your own children to listen is to whisper your message within their earshot to someone else.  I like applying the same technique with students.  When talking with colleagues I love to brag about individual students within earshot of them.  Spreading the word about the great things kids are doing is super important!

When the bell rings at the start of each class, I'm at the door to greet my students.  I love giving them the impression that I can't wait to see them.  It sets the tone for a caring classroom before the class even begins!

On the first day of school I let my students know that I will be holding them to the highest behavior and academic standards.  I want them to achieve beyond anything they have ever done before.  That means that there are classroom management procedures in place.  It also means that they might be redoing their work to meet my standards.  This is the "tough love" part of showing them that I care.

OK, this may be obvious, but I'll never forget when I was student teaching and my supervising teacher kept telling her students day-after-day how much she loved them.  I was in awe of this.  I've followed her lead and tell my students how much I care about them and my profession all the time...even when I'm stressed and tired and overwhelmed.

I love creating homework and classwork with students' actual names in the assignments.  I'm careful to make sure that their names are associated with positive things and connected to activities and hobbies they care about.  It's not hard to do and kids love seeing their names in print.

Celebrating students' learning and achievements is super important.  I love to do it in little ways like hanging their work around the classroom and in big ways like planning events to celebrate their learning.

As you know, teachers are human, too.  One of the ways that I show students that I care about them is by trusting them with stories from my own life.  I share information about my family, my life successes, and times when I have struggled.  Sharing builds important connections.

At the end of the (school) day, teaching is not about standardized tests, curriculum requirements, paperwork, data, and reports.  I think it's about creating an environment where students want to learn because they know that their teachers care about their profession...and most importantly each of them.

I love learning about my students through their own work as well.  Units like this MEMOIR Writing Unit and this NARRATIVE Writing Unit are an awesome way to engage students in their learning and gain insight into their lives at the same time!

Oh, and click HERE for a printable of the 'Teachers Care' poster (prints on legal-sized paper) and HERE for a printable of the 'Learning' poster (prints on standard-sized paper).

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. I love calling home! One year, our school had postcards (cheap postage!) and teachers could send home a nice note about something said in class, a great project, etc. Calling home with good news really makes everyone happy.

  2. Excellent advice, Mary Beth! Great post!

  3. I start each of my college classes by asking students what is going on in their lives and sharing things from mine. I have received great feedback from them with regards to this! I don't get to call home anymore (which in regards to negative calls is a relief) but your post made me think about how I can do more to reinforce the positive things happening in class!

  4. Wonderful advice, and a timely reminder. Everybody needs to feel valued. Showing up at their extracurriculars is especially meaningful!

  5. Your post is so great to remind us the importance of gaining their respect and attention! I remember a day when I had lost my students because one had a "family situation" and was breaking down in the middle of class. Coming from a warped family myself, I started drawing my own family tree on the board. I drew in the links and the loops, and told a few stories that are really sad, but funny when you step back, and by the end of class, we were all laughing. That class was one of my best ever from that point on! ;) My lesson that day - Crazy is good!

  6. Love these ideas and I love the posters! Thanks for sharing. ~Addie

  7. Really cute info graphic!

  8. Excellent ideas, Mary Beth! All too often, we are so busy that we forget that our students are not just our experimental subjects, they are people who have real needs and feelings. Thanks for the reminders and the poster!


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