The Student Whisperer: Students Share 3 Secret “Wishes”

(Original article can be found on

Whenever I speak with teachers about their struggles, the answer I hear when I “read between the lines” of our conversation, is that they cannot seem to figure out how to keep the students interested on a daily basis.

We often think if we stay current with the times, adjust lessons to fit into the modern day, or stay up to date on the latest educational trends, that we will be able to meet the students where they are and they will learn, but is this true?

I decided to ask students directly what would keep them interested in school and I found three “wishes” that kept reoccurring in their answers.


We have all been there, the “perfect lesson” that wasn’t so perfect in the end.

The materials are ready, the standards are met, the idea is amazing, and you are so passionate about the topic that you know they will love it as well. The students enter, and as you speak it is as if a fountain of golden “nuggets of wisdom” are spewing from your lips. You smile, you laugh, you are amazed at how great this is going. That is until you look around and notice that your students are totally dazed and confused, they didn’t grasp the concept, and they don’t seem to care about what you are saying. What happened?!?!

As teachers we often feel, and in many cases we are right, that we know what is best for our students. We are the ones who, at times, need to discipline and teach life lessons to our students. We are good at what we do and the students love us for it.

We are, however, also the ones living far from the current reality of our students and their day to day life and struggles. The world they live in is different than the one most of us grew up in.

If we lean in and listen carefully to what our students need from us, we will be able to reach them, teach them, and impact them in ways we never thought possible.

Three Wishes Directly From The Mouths of Students

Wish One: They want a personal connection

Students don’t want to be friends with their teachers, they want a personal connection with them. They want to know and understand that above all else they are cared for. They need a mentor, an advocate, and someone they feel has their best interests at heart. They want someone who shows them that they matter and demonstrates it to daily.

How to Grant this wish: A simple strategy to start

♦ Hold “get to know you” session during student lunch periods. Choose 5–7 students at time, and have them come into your classroom to have lunch with you. Simply strike up a conversation about what their interests are and what they, as students, are all about. Write these down and incorporate them into your lessons if possible. Hold this “get to know you lunch” throughout the year so all students will have had the opportunity to share multiple times.

Wish Two: They want to feel that we relate to them

Sometimes as teachers we forget that the students we teach are just kids trying their best. What we look at as “easy,” they may get stressed out about and find to be very difficult.

They have interests and things they like to do outside of school. They are involved in sports, music, dance, and more, yet sometimes we tend to forget that these activities are important to them.

They learn differently and simply wish we would teach them in a way that they feel most comfortable learning. Although it is hard and very time consuming to “differentiate” our instruction, maybe it is what our students need from time to time.

If we treat our students like valuable customers, we will do everything in our power to make sure we relate to their needs and deliver every time.

How to Grant this wish: A simple strategy to start

♦ Create a “feedback” survey or form that students can fill out based on certain assignments or requirements they have to meet. Do not ask for their name, just honest feedback. Take the feedback and make changes that are needed

♦ Hold an “interview” session either at lunch or after school where you personally interview them. This may take time but it will be worth it in the end. Create questions based on their life outside of school and time commitments, how they learn best, and priorities they have in order of importance.

Wish Three: They want take ownership of their learning

Students want to learn about things they are interested in and continue that learning daily. Our ultimate goal as educators is to instill that love of learning in our students. Whether you teach English, Math, History, Science, or something different, what we teach is important. If we could find a way to incorporate what students want to learn about into our content areas it would be a wonderful thing!

How to Grant this wish: A simple strategy to start

♦ Incorporate a genius hour, or similar type of project, where they use the skills and concepts learned in your class and apply them to a topic they are interested in. You can set the expectations, but give them freedom to explore what they want to get out of the learning.

Question: What are some other ways we, as teachers, can “grant” these wishes? Leave a comment by clicking here

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