Four suggestions from students to students

What have students taught me? Over the last 40 years of teaching in elementary, secondary and college/university, I’ve learned a lot from students. I know, it’s supposed to work the other way – the students learn from me. But today I want to share some of the best advice I’ve ever heard from students.

Try something new. Many students tell me that one of the best things they ever did was try something that they had not done before. Often it was an activity at a middle/junior or high school, or at a college. It was something they might have thought about, but never done. Or it might have been something that they never considered, but a friend urged “join us…give this a try.”

Years later, some students have returned or written to say doing this had many benefits. Some started on a life-long hobby. Others report they found something that led to a career. Some tried something and decided, “It was not for me.” But almost everyone is glad they tried something different.

Tell a teacher when you really enjoyed a class, or you learned something interesting/important. Movies and music often make fun of teachers. TV, newspapers and other media feature lots of criticism (a new national poll found adults said they heard much more negative than positive about schools in the media). Some complaints are justified.

But almost everyone has had one, sometimes several great teachers. And even with an ok or “pretty good” teacher, there are some very good days.

I’m not talking a constant “kissing up” to the teacher. You know the difference. Please take the time, when something has gone well in class, to tell the teacher. It’s not just for her or him. You’ll feel better too.

Help someone. Doesn’t matter if you are in elementary, middle, high school or college. There are countless opportunities to get involved. Some students like reading with or to seniors. Some like to help with neighborhood cleanups. Some tutor others who are just learning English. The website What Kids Can Do has wonderful examples of a vast array of projects students of various ages have carried out. Please check out their website.

Stay positive. Check out the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that starts, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.”  Do people know you as someone who’s generally happy and upbeat? Yes, everyone faces troubles, problems, and challenges. Some have much more than their share. But you will be happier, and accomplish more, if you have a smile and a kind word for others. I’m not saying ignore problems. But you can make a conscious decision about how you will respond. If you are known as a positive person, you’ll often receive more help and support from others when you need it – because you’ve given it to them.

I’d love to hear from you about this advice. Thanks and hope you have a very good year.