Do you see the potential?

I wish she could see my potential. 
Hearing a ten-year-old say that about their teacher is heartbreaking.
My coaches believe in me. Even though I am small, they know I can do it and that makes me want to do better. Why can’t my teacher be more like that? Why doesn’t she think I am good enough?
This conversation hurt.  We shouldn’t have students questioning whether or not their teachers believe in them. Our students should know that we are behind them, ready to support them, guide them, and most importantly that we believe in them.  A meeting I attended today began with Rita Pierson’s Every Kid Needs a Champion Video.  Even though I have seen this video numerous times, I am always left energized by her message.  Today I couldn’t help but think of that ten-year-old and what a difference it would make if his teacher was his champion.  As educators, our impact reaches far beyond the walls of the classroom and far beyond the content we teach.  Our students depend on us for so much more.
How can we make sure our students know that we see their potential?
We can show them that we believe in them. Students pick up on our body language, our tone of voice, and whether or not we really care. Take the time to listen, to really listen to their ideas.  When these ideas seem crazy, dig deeper into them instead of writing them off. Often, what we uncover gives us amazing insight into their learning and their interests.
We can challenge them.  When we only accept what they give us, we aren’t showing them that they can reach for more.  I am not saying that we send them away and say do better or try harder. Support the work they have done and the learning they have accomplished. However, we need to remind students that new learning can lead them to new places, new questions, and to new ideas. When our students begin to view learning as a journey without a finish line we show them that we believe the sky really is the limit for them.
We can learn from them. Some of my greatest lessons have been learned in the company of six-year-olds due to the way they view the world, find joy in the smalls things, and how they can simplify what we view as complex. When we view each student that walks through the door as a learner and a teacher we allow for a deeper relationship to form. Saying I can’t wait to learn from you today is powerful.
At the end of the day, there will no doubt be things left on your to-do list. Reminding students what they are capable of doing shouldn’t be one of them. Take the time to show your students that you believe in them. Let them know you see their potential.
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