Today marks my 100th blog post!
I could lead a cheer, set off fireworks or send 100 helium balloons into the sky. Writing one hundred posts is quite a commitment. When I first began writing a blog I didn’t even know how to attach a picture.
But I have a passion for inspiring teachers to help students learn to live successfully. I want teachers to understand the power they have to change a student’s life forever. It is for these reasons that I’ve decided to write a post titled 101 Ways to Encourage Students. I believe this is the best way to celebrate my 100th post. I’m going to list 100 ideas for encouragement plus one extra idea which demonstrates my commitment to keep on blogging for teachers.
Tweak these suggestions to meet the needs of your own students, and most importantly implement these ideas in your classroom. Print this page and refer to it often during the school year. Make a commitment to try at least one idea each time you read through the list. Here we go…
101 Ways to Encourage Students
- Brag about your students to others when the students can hear your comments.
- Tell them you were thinking about them over the weekend. Be specific about what your thoughts were. Students feel validated when they know you think about them outside school hours.
- Make eye contact. Don’t just look over their heads or at a slide when you are teaching a class. Make eye contact with individuals.
- When they have the courage to raise their hand to ask a question, reassure them with, “That’s a great question.” Then explain the answer fully and patiently until you are certain they understand.
- Tell a student about something the two of you have in common.
- Talk about a failure you have faced. Students can accept their own setbacks better if they know adults who they admire have also faced failures.
- Joke with them. Never joke about them. Assess their sense of humor and then have fun with them.
- When you see them in the hall, smile at them and speak. Don’t just limit this to your own students. Often we can encourage a student in our school who is not assigned to us by developing a relationship with them just passing in the hallways.
- Tell their parents how much you admire their kid. Be specific. These comments always get back to and encourage the student.
- If you see a student reading a book you’ve also read, comment on what they are reading.
- Never belittle or use put downs with any student. All students judge teachers by the way they treat the most disenfranchised kid in the class.
- Look for ways to build a rapport with every student. Is It music, movies, a favorite TV show, sports or video games? How can you connect with each kid by talking about something they enjoy?
- Tell them about something great you heard someone else say about them.
- Admire a talent that they have. Tell them you wish you could draw or ______ like they do.
- Make fun of yourself. Let them see you vulnerable and laughing at yourself. It will make them feel like they don’t have to be perfect either.
- Praise progress. Don’t wait for and insist on perfection before you praise.
- Smile when they least expect it.
- Teach students how to study successful people. Biographies, documentaries, DVDs, and online resources put successful people within reach for our students. Success breeds success.
- Do anything it takes to defuse a tense situation. Kids goof up. Always work to de-escalate a mistake. Never, never escalate a negative situation.
- Make them feel like you are the teacher who is on their side. You don’t have to condone unacceptable behavior to make the student still feel like you are on their side.
- Be available for chit-chat. If you are approachable, students will seek you out. Be available before school, after school, during break times.
- Put their work on display.
- Focus on their strengths. We all are too aware of our weaknesses. Students know clearly what their deficits are. They need to be reminded of their talents.
- Step up! Intervene EVERY time you see a student being teased or bullied. NEVER allow it to continue no matter whose student they are.
- Teach with enthusiasm. If you aren’t excited about your class, they won’t be either. (Yawn).
- Look for students who are not easily accepted by their peers. Befriend them. When other students see that you enjoy the ones they don’t engage, it will influence their opinion.
- Go to your students’ extra curricular functions. Let them know you came to watch them. It will matter more than you will ever imagine.
- Who is your greatest challenge in the class? Catch them doing something right and compliment them on it. Smile at them when they glance your way.
- Put a positive quote on the board and discuss it each day. Let them give examples of how they see that quote illustrated in their lives.
- Never, never act shocked when they share a problem from their lives. They’ll never approach you again if you over react. Listen, empathize and problem solve, but don’t act shocked.
- Ask a student for help. Students love helping a teacher. My high school students taught me most of what I know about technology. As a side benefit, they felt valued. “I taught the teacher something. Yeah.”
- Watch for teachable moments and try to capture them. We all learn best when we want to learn a particular skill. Not every learning possibility can be scheduled or planned ahead of time.
- Bring in your favorite song. Play it and explain what you like about it. Invite them to share theirs. (Caution: Make them aware that songs must comply with school standards).
- Every once in a while bring your students a treat. Try to make it unexpected and then they will appreciate it.
- Supply small items you see that some students need: paper, pencils, poster board, pens, etc. Most will really appreciate this. This says “I care about your success.”
- Tell them about something funny or stupid you did when you were a kid.
- Finish this sentence for any one of them. “You know what I admire about you? I admire…..”
- Never allow students to gossip or complain about a student who isn’t there. Shut it down. They will notice. They’ll know that you “have their back” when they aren’t around.
- Find something positive about every effort a student makes. You can address improvements needed only after first recognizing strengths. Criticism without any praise = discouragement.
- Orally share inspiring stories with your students. Yes, you CAN read to high school students.
- Tell them about a time you were afraid to try something and how you gathered the courage to do it. It will help them be courageous.
- Put a compliment in writing and give it to them. Written compliments have 10 times the power of spoken compliments. They can keep them and read them whenever they feel discouraged.
- Stop at their desk and sit down next to them. Comment on their work or just ask about something going on in their lives. This will build a positive relationship even if issues arise later.
- Use learning games in your classroom. When learning is fun a positive relationship builds between students and their teacher. This encourages students to learn.
- Notice a talent the student has and ask them to share that talent with the class.
- Do everything you can to build friendships inside your classroom. Assign partners who are welcoming and encouraging to others.
- Be an advisor for a club or start a club. I once started a friendship club between my Teacher Academy kids and the students with special needs in our high school. Many new friendships were formed.
- When you read an article about a student in the newspaper, bring it in and post it in your classroom. Buy an extra paper and give a copy to them.
- If you have someone in your room who has artistic skills, hang one of their paintings, pictures or posters in your classroom.
- I’ve often complimented a student on their writing skills telling them I want an autographed copy of their first book when they become an author. I know those books will be on my shelves someday.
- Call a parent to brag about something their child did in the classroom or around the school.
Ask a student to speak in front of a group about one of their experiences or accomplishments.
- Ask a student to organize an event. This lets them know you notice their organizational skills and trust their abilities.
- Notice kindnesses you see in your classroom. Compliment the student performing the kindness privately or in front of others. What is recognized expands.
- Technology can greatly enhance learning. However, don’t update your website while ignoring the child standing next to you waiting for help. You don’t like it when they text their friends while you are teaching. Being attentive works both ways.
- Teach students to surround themselves with their own encouragers. This is a skill they will need for life.
- By sharing a problem from your past you will let your students know that you have been through tough times. They will be more apt to seek you out for encouragement when they have tough times. Be certain to walk the lines of professionalism on this one.
- Recognize birthdays, yes even in high school. I knew a teacher who kept a box of candy bars and soda pop for students with birthdays.
- Visualize future successes for your students and describe those visualizations to them. Students often picture their own successes first through the eyes of someone they admire.
- Ask yourself the “magic question”. “What is one thing I can do today to encourage success for this student?” Pick a challenging, quiet or struggling student. Ask yourself that question and act on it.
- Put an index card on your desk. Give yourself a mark every time you smile at the student who is the biggest challenge in the class. No one has to know the reason for the card. How many points can you earn in a day? Challenge yourself.
- Listen when a student speaks. Really listen. Listen for clues beneath the surface. What are they really saying?
- Next time you see a student ask them about something they shared with you previously.
- Encourage a student to share their dreams with you. Listen carefully. Become their dream partner as you encourage them to take the steps toward their dreams.
- Find a positive mentor for a student in the field of their interest.
- Always talk positively about a student to other professionals. I believe students sense when you’ve “got their back.” If you hear another student or adult say something negative about a student, interject a positive comment. Students feel it.
- Be consistently upbeat. When students have to tiptoe around a teacher’s fluctuating moods, it can be very discouraging for them. A teacher should always be the adult in the classroom.
- Say “I care about you.” Sometimes say it verbally. Sometimes say it with your actions.
- Write encouraging comments on their papers. In my job I had to evaluate hundreds of essays. Sometimes when they would write something particularly well, I would write, “Wow! I wish I had written this!”
- Explain to your students the power of focus. Students can accomplish more if they zero in on their most important goal.
- In the classroom, call on everyone to speak. Don’t just call on those who you know have the correct answer to keep the lesson moving swiftly.
- Think of dozens of ways to say “I believe in you.” You can demonstrate your belief in a student by giving them a responsibility. They will want to rise to the level of your belief.
- Laugh together. Nothing builds a positive rapport, better than shared laughter.
- Give your student a “do over.” Whether it’s a bad choice they’ve made or an assignment they’ve bombed, everyone deserves a do over once in a while.
- Treat every student as you would want another teacher to treat your own child. Pretend there is a little bird in the room watching you. In these days of electronic devices, there may be.
- Give choices in your assignments so that every student has a chance to shine using their strengths. Students learn material in many different ways. Choices encourage them.
- Teach your students the power of the word “yet.” I’m not good at math yet. I can’t write well yet. When you hear them announce something they can’t do, YOU put the word yet at the end of their sentence.
- Be a hope vendor. Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Great teachers sell hope everyday. How can you sell hope today?
- Make students aware of their negative self talk. Have them write down what they say to themselves. Then show them how to turn those thoughts around…on purpose.
- Use uplifting music in your classroom. The right music can enhance any lesson.
- Be relentless about looking for ways for students to shine, Look for awards, competitions, recognitions, scholarships, and contests. I gave my own token awards. It is the recognition itself that encourages.
- Students spell the word “love” this way… T-I-M-E. If you are always in a hurry or reading emails on your computer, you aren’t giving them the time to connect with you. They want your time and that includes eye contact.
- Tell them a true story that applies to any lesson you are teaching. People connect by sharing a story. A story lives inside someone longer than any worksheet.
- Use quiet words. Quiet words sink in. Yelling shuts a student down. In fact shouting shuts the whole class down. Quiet words encourage a student and helps him breakthrough to understanding.
- Share your goals with students. Let them know when you have taken a step toward your goal. Share it. It will inspire them to work toward their goals.
- Walk your talk. Be a role model. Don’t expect them to accomplish what you won’t expect of yourself.
- Try to add value to each student’s life. Students need us in very different ways. Know them well enough that you understand what they need most from you. Then deliver.
- Do whatever it takes to build a community within your classroom. If one student is estranged, you don’t yet have a community. Keep working at it.
- Go the extra mile to make a memory in your classroom. Memories last a lifetime and inspire students for years. Some will happen spontaneously. Others need some forethought. Use props, activities, guest speakers, projects, and field trips to build special memories.
- Be careful what you “see.” If you believe a kid is a loser, he will know it and live up to that. Find any strength you see and focus on that. How could that one strength lead to some future success?
- Teach students how to mentally replay the successes they’ve had in life. Human nature has them replaying their failures. Show them how to interrupt and replace those negative memories with positive ones.
- Know your students well enough to choose partners carefully. When pairing students for a project put diplomatic and willing encouragers with someone who may need assistance. But insist on the contributions of all members of the group. No slackers.
- Demonstrate diplomacy in everything you do. When you teach students diplomacy you set them up for success in life.
- Make the most of moments. Teachers don’t have much time; so try to make moments matter. A student once came to me and told me at length about how much it meant to her when I passed her in the hallway and said, “Hey cutie!” Two words. One moment. Huge impact.
- Give a student “wait time.” When you call on them for a response, don’t expect them to answer immediately. When you give them “wait time” it really says, “I know you can do this.”
- Ask a student if you can keep a paper or project that they have done well, to show to your students the following year.
- Teach students to build an encouragement folder or box. Have them gather quotes, poems or stories that inspire them. Have them keep positive notes or important keepsakes from others in this box. Share items that have encouraged you.
- When a student explodes within the classroom, defuse the situation by staying calm. Talk to him later when emotions subside. Don’t attack back. Try this opener. “Tell me what’s going on.”
- Make your classroom so safe that students are willing to push outside their comfort zone in your room.
- Join your students in an assignment. When I give a writing prompt, I frequently will write my thoughts as the students are writing. If asked, I’ll share what I wrote. Students will value your assignments more because you’ve given them importance.
- Teach for the “whatevers” in life. Every day in every way. teach your students to handle future difficult situations. Here is the message you must give them. Whatever comes your way you can handle it. Your classroom discussions and activities must say to them, “I know that you are resilient enough. You are creative enough. You are intelligent enough. You are valuable enough. You are tenacious, worthy and strong enough to get through whatever life hands you. Sometimes it won’t be easy but in this classroom I have given you the tools to handle whatever comes you way.”
TEACH…To Change Lives
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