Students Need to Know We Believe They CAN – 6 Strategies to Communicate this with Words and Actions

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Research shows that students achieve more for teachers who believe in them.

Knowing that, what steps can we take as educators TODAY to ensure the students we interact with know we believe they CAN achieve? Here are some ideas:

  1. Tell them! Tell the whole class, tell them privately, but consistently and frequently tell students you believe in them and you believe that they CAN achieve their goals and your goals for them. They need to hear that you believe in them! You may be the only person in their life telling them. So tell them!
  2. Scaffold to ensure success! For example, after asking a high-level question, instruct students to turn and talk with a peer before calling on an individual student to share out what their partner said. This keeps everyone accountable for thinking at high levels but gives students struggling with concept safety to share not their own thinking, but their peer’s thoughts – ensuring success.
  3. Don’t rescue them! If you really believe someone knows the answer, you don’t rescue them and give them the answer when they hesitate. Show students you believe in them by NOT just providing answers, but guiding them to get there on their own. This will communicate your belief in them and boost their own belief in themselves. Rescuing them and jumping in to help too quickly can communicate that you don’t think they can do it on their own.
  4. Talk about the future YOU can see for them! Share the potential you see in your students. Talk to them about the character traits they need for college and their future careers. Teach them those skills. Even if college is not the path students eventually take, the fact that you believed they could reach those dreams if they wanted to will mean a lot to them.
  5. Be their cheerleader! I reached out on Twitter to ask my PLN for strategies they use to communicate their belief in their students and got some great feedback on how to be a cheerleader for students – celebrating their successes:

@K_Riley215 shared how a simple act has had a major impact on her students:

“I write positive notes as I’m walking the room and silently drop [them] off to [students]. I love to turn little moments into huge moments of praise. I have done this for years – because ONCE, I noticed a student kept all of my notes in their notebook. Every. Single. One.”

@HooverPhysEd shared his current student encouragement practice:

“I created some encouragement cards that have all kinds of notes on them to help motivate kids. As I see students giving great effort, I hand them out. Even if they fail and have not performed the skill correctly yet, I hand it to them to encourage them to keep going. Sometimes success is right around the corner if they keep trying.”

@Jessicakh820 shared that she loves writing positive notes to her students and reminds us that it doesn’t have to be elaborate. For her students, “sometimes it’s just on a sticky” but it always communicates her belief in them.

6. Set goals with students! Setting goals with our students communicates that we believe they have the potential to meet those goals! @Jessicakh820 shared that she and her students work together to “set goals and graph our goals.”  Celebrating even small gains towards meeting those goals – as Jessica does by graphing her students’ progress – further communicates belief in students’ abilities to continue to grow and progress.

To truly communicate to students that we believe in them we can’t just say it – we must live it.

As @IanMooreSr shared with me on Twitter:

“The words that we communicate to our students on a daily basis [are] important. They need to hear AND believe our words. Belief can be felt by students. If you don’t believe, they won’t.”

Our actions and our words must align to communicate our belief in our students. Tell them AND show them – live out your belief in students today!

Thank you so much to @K_Riley215, @HooverPhysEd, @Jessicakh820, and  @IanMooreSr for lending your ideas, insights, and practices to this post! Do you have another idea, strategy, or practice to add? Please share it in the comments!

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