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5 Things to Say to Your Students

Adapted from NEA Member Benefits

What you say — and how you say it — can have a big impact on your students. Positive messages from educators can encourage them to take control in determining their future.

The tone in which you communicate with students also is important, says psychologist Lisa Damour. “Humans are very attuned to nonverbal communication,” she says. “Step back and think about all parts of the communication — not just the words, but the music behind it.”

Here are five examples of the kinds of things you should say to your students to encourage intellectual risk-taking and cultivate social growth.

“Good morning, Tyler!”

Taking the time to greet every child helps put a positive note on their day before it begins. A personal connection also gets your students in a learning frame of mind. Some educators shake hands with each student as they enter the classroom each day, showing them respect and teaching social skills at the same time.

“How are you doing?”

Teenagers in particular are attuned to whether adults care about them as a whole person, Damour says. Communicate a real interest in how students are doing in their school and personal lives. If you see that a student is struggling with work in history class, for example, note not just his struggles there, but also his successes in other areas, Damour says.

“When students know you have a personal interest in who they are, it’s much easier to talk with them about the next step they need to take for themselves,” says teacher Sara Hyde.

“Thank you for trying something new.”

Success isn’t necessarily measured by whether a student knows the right answer. Sometimes, success comes in the form of risk-taking, which should be celebrated — even if the end result is failure.

Encourage students to take risks and embrace mistakes. Remind them that if they knew everything, you wouldn’t have a reason to be there teaching them new things. Share your own struggles to help create a safe learning environment.

“Let’s focus on the positive.”

When students get in trouble, don’t dwell on the negative. Instead, give them time to work through their feelings. Once they calm down, tell them that you know they’ll do better next time.

“I know you have it in you.”

Encourage students but hold them to their highest standard. “If I know they’re capable of doing better work, I might say, ‘I see that this needs work to be one of your best efforts. What questions do you have for me so you can do your best?’” Hyde says.


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