What do you want kids to say about you?

I was out yesterday and happened to end up sitting next to five six graders.  They were talking about all the typical things that sixth graders would talk about and then they shifted to a serious discussion about their teachers.  I have to say before describing their conversation that all of my teachers sensors said that this was a great bunch of kids, the kind you would want in your class.  Also when the conversation shifted to school they were being serious, they were not trying to insult their teachers.  At first I was just listening, but then had to take out and pen and paper to write down some quotes(might be a few words off but they are pretty close).

“I made one line crocked and she took off points.  It didn’t change the meaning and no one else on the world would have cared.”

“I put one extra space in between the answers and she took off points.”

“I got a ‘B’ on my spelling test.  He asked me what I thought.  I thought a B was pretty good but I said ‘I think I should work harder.’  “

“Even when we do great on work and work hard they find something to mark wrong so you can feel bad about yourself.”

“They always make sure they they find something on your paper that they take off points so that they can say ‘I taught them something.'”

They went on and on and eventually just started laughing at all the actions of their teachers.  What started to take shape were not the lessons they learned from their teacher’s comments, words, actions, or assignments, but how they learned to play the system to keep them off their back.  Even when the teacher thought they were learning, it was just them giving the teacher what they wanted to keep their grade up and the negative comments at bay.

Well of course I started to think about what my students were saying about me as they got together over the weekend.  Yes, of course they talk about me when they get together.  I am definitely more interesting than Lady GaGA.  Then my mind shifted to what would I want them to say.  What kind of class experience would I want them to be describing?

What are your kids saying about you?  Put five of them into a room and what do they say about the time they spend with you?  If you are middle/high school they spend about 170 hours a year with you.  What impression are those hours leaving? If you are an elementary teacher, or a homeschooler, they spend a whole lot more.

I have some homework homelearning for you.  Find an image that best depicts the experience you want your kids to have.  You could interpret that as meaning your personal children, future kids, or current students.  So whether you are a college professor, a homeschooler, a 3rd grade teacher, an online educator, or even if you don’t have any children yet I would love for you to contribute.  If you are a student choose an image that depicts how you would like your education to be.  Just click on the link and follow the directions.


1-Click on an empty slide to the left.
2-Click on Insert—>then image
3-Select the image from your computer or the url
4-Flickr images need to be saved and uploaded
5-Place any personal information you would like under the image
6-Click save and close


  1. I wonder what percentage of the overall student comments were really about the practice of grading. It’s hard to imagine school without grading but if the focus shifted to the learning rather than the carrot would our general perception of school change as well?

  2. Very interesting question……I wonder what my students say about me after hours. Do we as teachers have an obligation to nitpick though? Isn’t that our job? I liked Charlie’s idea of a “No grades paradigm” – what would happen to our schools if no grading was allowed? How would we assess learning? How would we reward good and great work? I think NCLB, at least for public schools, has made this a non-starter, but it’s fun to think about – would students try harder and engage more if they knew they wouldn’t be graded? Would some lose interest entirely?!

  3. This is an interesting topic, one that I have listened to many a time as a high school teacher. Sometimes I have been bold enough to ask the students what they say about me. If the students are honest it can be quite an eye opener. As to the matter of grading, the work place for which we are trying to prepare them for will “grade” them and reward them for the “grade” they get. Someone once said that when performance is measured performance increases. As educators we need some form of measurement or assessment to determine if true learning is taking place. I not sure what those assessments should look like but we do need to design them to measure the learning of the student.

  4. I never thought of it that way, but labeling does take the pressure and responsibility off teachers when students aren’t succeeding academically. Students do get labeled year after year which only adds to the problem. All the demands the “system” puts on teachers doesn’t help matters, in addition to society’s decline in role modeling. Nevertheless, teachers can make a difference one learner at time. We should be looking at the whole child instead of specific content taught.
    One of the first questions I ask myself is, why are students not doing, or doing their work? What is or isn’t motivating them? How do I know if students are learning or not? What do I do when students learn or don’t learn? It is extremely rewarding to find the answer, apply it, see a child blossom, feel good about themselves, and enjoy being at school. All it took was asking the right question and caring about the person. Yes…students are human beings. It’s all about people…loving and caring for people. The learning will take place when that is at the foundation of our instruction. People need to love, to be loved, and to belong; the three most important aspects of our existence. Caring enough to instruct the whole child will reap benefits that will affect our classrooms, our colleagues’ classrooms, the school community, families, societies, and eventually the world, one student at a time.

  5. After reading your blog on “What you want your kids to say about you” Ithought about it and I can’t believe that if teachers would find something to mark a child down for, even if that child got everything right. As a teacher I would want to encourge my students to do well. All children need positive feedback. I always think before giving a negative response to a student to always give them two positive remarks before the negative. I try to build my students up, and try not to knock them down. If you as a teacher have a strong repoire with your students, then each student will want to perform well. I am going to ask my students what they think about as a teacher.
    I want to know what I can do to better help in the classroom.

    In every classroom you are going to have your high, medium and low students. As a teacher I try to help each one out at their level. Build them up and make sure they are working hard, but enjoying it at the sametime.

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