Three Little Words That Show Students You Care

Smart Classroom Management: Three Little Words That Show Students You CareYour smile and consistency.

Your pleasantness and good humor. Your kindness, honesty, and simplicity of message.

Day in and day out, they let your students know how much you care.

It’s something they can see and feel as plain as day.

Which in turn builds trust and rapport, drawing them inexorably into your circle of influence.

Despite being indirect, these teacher traits have a powerful affect on students.

In fact, they play an important role in what is the true secret to classroom management success.

But there is something else you can do to show your genuine care and concern for them.

It’s a bit more direct but still nonetheless effective. It’s also simple, as obvious as the nose on your face, and so, so easy to forget.

What is it?

It’s to look individual students in the eye and utter three little words: “How are you?”

Now, it’s important to note that it can’t be an off-handed, throwaway line as you’re walking by. “Hey, howarya?”

It must be earnest.

You have to pause the moment. You have to stop what you’re doing, shove aside whatever else is on your mind, and really look at the student. Be present.

Otherwise, your words will ring hollow. Spoken with sincerity, however, and they can touch their very heart. Because, you see, very few people ever really ask them how they’re doing.

And it means the world to them.

It tells them that you’re interested in them as a person, that they’re not just a test score, a face in the crowd, or another cog in the educational machine.

They matter.

Not because of what they can do, what they wear, or what they look like, but because they’re here, on this earth, trying to figure it out like the rest of us.

Of course, there are variations of “How are you?” that work as well. “How have you been?” “How is everything?” “How are things going with you?”

Just go with your gut. As long as you really do want to know, you can’t mess it up. As for how students respond, it doesn’t really matter.

Just knowing that you care enough to ask is what’s important.

However, most students will tell you they’re doing fine or okay, which gives you the opening to follow up with “Please let me know if you need anything or I can help you in any way.”

Although they’ll almost never take you up on the offer, they’ll nearly always walk away feeling more settled, content, and appreciative being in your classroom.

On the rare occasion they do want to unburden themselves, be sure to schedule a time that you can really talk, whether at recess or lunch or whenever you have some time.

The strategy—if you can call it that—is especially effective with difficult students or those who you’ve had a harder time building a relationship.

Many of their interactions with teachers have been negative or manipulative. So when you approach them with nothing more than their interest at heart, they’re taken aback in a wonderful way.

Sometimes they don’t quite believe you, which is why it’s a good idea to continue to pose the question every couple of weeks or so.

There is no reason to make a checklist to make sure you get to so many students every week or add yet another to-do to your already full plate.

It’s just a reminder to touch base. To connect with your students as people.

To be the teacher, mentor, angel they can count on.

PS – I’ll be taking next week off to celebrate Christmas, but will be back with a new article on December 30th.

Happy Holidays!


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25 Responses to Three Little Words That Show Students You Care

  1. Azar Aftimos December 16, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    Excellent article with tips and suggestion. Thank u
    You for sharing.

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:19 am #

      You’re welcome, Azar.

  2. KDoyle December 16, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    Your articles are always spot on! There are pieces that when I read them I think “oh, yeah! I knew that”. Your articles remind me about the simple things of teaching and that they’re actually the ones that mean the most.

    Enjoy your break. Merry Christmas!

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:20 am #

      Thank you!

  3. Jan Glusac December 16, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    Michael, thank you for your words of wisdom. You are sooooo right on!!! It’s reaffirming that what I do every day is what my students need. It is the tsunami of love every day in my 1st grade class – they are sooo happy!!!

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks Jan! Great to hear.

  4. Gloria December 16, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Michael- Enjoy your week off and Merry Christmas. Your words have been helping me a great deal to get through this year. Each strategy you impart seems to magically come to my inbox at just the right moment and gives me encouragement to carry on as well as try something new. Thank you! -Gloria

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:22 am #

      I’m so glad to hear it, Gloria! Have a wonderful break.

  5. Roman December 16, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    I have two questions. If I ask one student at a time, the others will feel ignored. Especially my youngest, that is eleven-year-old female students are very very sensitive about which girl I speak to or which girl I smile at or praise. So asking one of them “How are you?” might raise a few eyebrows. And the other question is – does it apply to high school, too? If I pick a random seventeen-year-old student and ask her sincerely: “How are you today?”, other girls in the class will hate me for that. Why is he asking her, why not me? And the boys may think that I am trying to become a friend of hers, or something more. Actually, my two questions are one.

    • Ann M Bancroft December 17, 2017 at 9:17 am #

      Last week my 12th grade son’s English teacher finished the lesson a bit early and asked the class to answer 2 questions on paper for an exit ticket: What did you learn in class? and How are you doing in life? My son’s 2nd answer revolved around basketball and wanting to be a good captain of the team and seeking God’s guidance for next year as he graduates. The teacher sent him a personal response via email encouraging him that she knows all the work he’s putting into basketball will pay off and that having faith will also strengthen him for the future. He was so amazed that she wrote a personal response and it was amazingly affirming for him. So that’s one way it could work in high school!!

    • Lori December 18, 2017 at 12:52 am #

      Roman, you are right that kids can read all sorts of things in that simple question. I ask how they are doing when I see that one kid in the hallway passing by, at lunch, at recess or just any opportunity where you have a minute or two to connect when they are not with their peers. You don’t have to single a kid out in front of everyone. Also of course there are all those chances at the grocery store when you bump into kids—you can strike up a convo. And I would say do it with as many different kids as you can. You just never know what is going on in their lives when they need that friendly ear.

  6. Janet December 16, 2017 at 10:19 am #

    Love this…so true. Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:22 am #

      You’re welcome, Janet.

  7. Bobbi Blanzy December 16, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    Michael, your articles are genius and practical. And whether you know it or not, very Christian based in nature. Thank you for writing them. Will you be offering your classroom management course again soon?

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:24 am #

      Hi Bobby,

      Thanks! I’m not sure yet about the course. Still thinking about it as well as which new project to start for the new year.

  8. D Coles December 16, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    Do you have any suggestions for substitute teachers. Most of the time the sub doesn’t know

    the management plan rules & consequences. Some classes are respectful and can be

    engaged easily or have well developed class rules and consequences that subs are made

    aware of. What about the class that is disrespectful, will not listen, out of control at the get

    go. Would your book Class Management for Art, Music, P.E. fit for the substitute? By the

    way this is middle school.

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:25 am #

      This is a topic on the list of future e-guides. I think the book you mentioned would be helpful, for sure.

  9. Bethy December 17, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    I love reading your articles. Always have a great message to apply in real life. I enjoyed this one because i heard many teachers telling me do not smile. Keep a straight face till Thanksgivig. it is impossible not to smile at my Students, I would feel fake if I do that. Thank you!

  10. Pam December 17, 2017 at 11:01 am #

    This show of friendliness and concern is a very important step in building relationships. Thanks for the reminder. I often do it, but not for everyone. Usually, I can tell with whom to touch base, but I believe I will try to be more aware of the importance of this simple act. Merry Christmas and thanks for touching us in so many ways.

    • Michael Linsin December 17, 2017 at 11:29 am #

      Thanks Pam. Merry Christmas to you!

  11. Lisa Kuehl December 17, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

    This is great, I will definitely make more of a conscious effort to do this with my kids more often.

  12. SHERRI CALLAHAN December 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    Just to “piggy-back”…This semester I have consistently stated, “have a nice day” as students leave the classroom. I am so happy that this gesture is being repeated to me by my students! It’s such a joy to have a student call out, “Have a nice day, Ms. Callahan”!

  13. Jan Salam December 26, 2017 at 3:30 am #

    Thanks Michael for the excellent article. Will be starting the new school year soon on January 2. Will be meeting my new group of students – the 3rd graders. Will surely take up your suggestions. Hope to have a great and smooth year with them. Will be looking out for more tips from you!

    • Michael Linsin December 26, 2017 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks Jan! Best of luck on your new class.

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