5 Sentences Your Students Need to Hear From You

John Norlin · September 25, 2018

1. “I think you’d be good at it.”

In close to 20 years of working with a state student leadership program, I can tell you that the line I hear more than any other on why a student decided to step up and have the courage to get involved or run for office is, “I think you’d be good at it.” There is something about this simple, yet powerful statement that causes people to act and push their comfort zones. Maybe it has something to do with meeting the basic human need that all people have, which is to be paid attention to and appreciated.

2. “It’s all about relationships.”

Let’s face it, we were built to be relational. From the time we are babies to the day we die, there is evidence that we were built to be relational. From nurses wanting Moms to have skin to skin contact with brand new babies, to people on their death beds asking for loved ones to be by their side so that they are not alone - no matter what subject area is being taught, everyone has a responsibility to teach positive relationship skills. We must explicitly teach how to introduce yourself to someone, interact with someone in conversation, and teach the importance of helping others and asking for help yourself. All of these skills are important to strong relationships and can be woven into the fabric of what we teach in any subject area. We need to be as intentional with planning these skills into our day as we are with the content we teach. It’s not one more thing on the plate, it is the plate!


3. “We are responsible for how we respond.”

What is great about this sentence is that it identifies that we are not perfect, yet holds us accountable to be “responsible” for a response. If students in our classrooms were given the space to make mistakes, but know that my expectation of them as their teacher is on how they respond to that mistake…growth is going to occur in my students both academically and socially.

4. “What did you do for others today?”

This is the question that is not getting asked. Ask any group of students, “How many of you have had a parent or guardian ask you at the end of a day in the last month, ‘What did you do for others today?’ and see how many hands go up. If we are going to change the climate and culture of our schools, communities, and world, we need to start directly and indirectly asking the question that is not getting asked.

5. “I was wrong.”

It is becoming more and more rare in today’s day-to-day life where we see examples of humility in action. Humility is an absence of pride and arrogance and it seems that pride runs rampant in our society where likes, favorites, and retweets magnify the message that “It’s all about me and my wants and desires.”  For an educator to genuinely say, “I was wrong” in any context carries so much weight because it is so rarely heard. It may be one of the greatest lessons you teach all year.


John Norlin

John Norlin is a Co-Founder of CharacterStrong, a Servant Leadership trainer, and motivational speaker. He was Washington Advisor of the Year, taught 5 leadership classes per semester for 10 years at Sumner High School, and was a Program Administrator for the Whole Child for five years.