Thursday, 9 September 2010

Tell Them You Care.

I am going back in memories today, sorry. Was something that happened yesterday made me remember this true story. I have thought about it before but never mentioned it on here.

I had moved from being a minister to becoming a teacher of world religions and philosophy. Like all other trainee teachers I had to do a year in teaching practice working with a principal who had committed to take on probationers and help them. I remember one particular class that had a number of pupils in it with behaviour problems. I was so unused to having problems with students, so many of them seemed to find their ways to my room at lunch hour and before the day began, I thought I was good with them. yet here was a difficult group. The principal, when I asked for a strategy shrugged and told me I seemed to be doing ok with them, better than most. I felt ok but unhappy I was going to leave that school feeling I had not done the best I could.

One day I thought I would try something I had learned as a minister. Something I had picked up somewhere, I do not know, and used in the training of church elders.

I gave each student in the class a sheet of blank paper. On it I asked them to list the names of all the other students. I then asked them to write one sentence about each of their classmates. The comment they were asked to write was to be a positive comment, stating a good quality the student possessed.

This task took them the whole of the teaching lesson, and it sure did keep them quiet.

At the end of the session I gathered them all in. That night I made each student a sheet with the comments made about them by their classmates. I did not identify who said what, just gave them the list.

It had an amazing effect on that class. For the rest of my year with them I actually looked forward to last period Tuesday afternoon class 2C.

Some seven or eight years later I was contacted by a parent of one of the more troublesome of that class. The son had been involved in a motorcycle accident and had been killed. When they were cleaning out his room they had found the sheet. They had asked his friend about it and he had explained. It seems he had kept his sheet also and so had some of the others in the class.

It seems that for some of them that lesson had been a turning point. That exercise became a standard lesson each year with all my new class groups.

It is amazing the change it can make to a person to be told what it is about them that others like. To know that they do not need to be a bully or the class clown that people care about them as they are.

It is never too late to tell somebody you love them or care for them or respect them. As I have said I do not claim to have been the originator of this idea and you may have heard of it before but it worked well for me.

I no longer give out sheets of paper but I do try to find out little things that people like about each other. If anybody ever says anything to me about a person, good or bad I always then am able to say. “Strange that because they think this about you. They told me this once.” Works every time. I call it my little notebook of good things people say about others.

It is a bit like blogging really is it not? I realised that yesterday when somebody commented on my blog about somebody else, and somebody else said something about me on theirs.

We are a great group here I think.

This blog is linked to my other. The Conspirators


  1. I, too, have a way with the problem students... I see something in them that nobody else sees. For that reason, I seem to GET all of them in my classroom, which brings me a lot of stress and despair. But the successes that I have with those difficult kids are the successes that mean the most to me in the long run. :)

  2. I've heard of other teachers doing similar and I love that it was such a powerful lesson for your class, Ralph.

  3. I think I'm going to send this post to a few teachers. I like this idea. Giving kids positive feed back is so important for their success. Grown-ups too, for that matter. Don't we just thrive on these little comments???

  4. It's such a great pity that we didn't have wise teachers like you when I was at school. This exercise would have helped a lot of us overcome the criticism that pulled us down. Thanks for telling us this story Ralph.

  5. Good Morning Ralph, today will be a great day!
    It is strange, our connections from across the seas. When I taught (mostly 12 to 15 year olds), I also got the rowdy ones! I actually liked their energy and found the challenge to control it more interesting than a challenge to create it. Positive energy always works and success, even in little increments, is the easiest ladder to climb. Nice post for the back to school season

  6. What a brilliant idea a powerful lesson . I just read it to my husband, who's too bz to read it by himself.I will forward this to all my kids (4)/friends.
    Not too late to learn so very happy to have you in my life.
    I did not have a smart teacher like you Ralph.
    Thanks for sharing, IB

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Sorry about the delete, I hate when I leave out a letter... ok so this is what it said.

    Yes, Ralph we are all on the same planet.
    It's a human thing!! so that should teach me to preview first. LOL!