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Believing in Our Students

July 8, 2011

We started working on a special project to help build a better community and stop bullying issues. Our first step was to focus on what a group is, how it should work and how special each and every member is.  I encouraged my students to imagine that our class was like a giant puzzle and that each puzzle piece was one of us. It was a highly enriching opportunity to discuss our thoughts, feelings and expectations. I was excited to see how engaged kids were and how everyone spoke their mind. While we were sharing our ideas, Martin* raised his hand and said: “We’ll never be a good group… All the teachers always tell us how terrible our group is.”  I was deeply hurt by what he said and what hurt the most was the fact that Martin was totally convinced of his words. At that exact moment, I remembered a wonderful talk by Angela Maiers on the importance of believing in others and letting them know they matter. I looked at Martin, then I looked at each of my kids and said: “Each of you is a wonderful child. Please, don’t say that again… Yes, there are things we can do better, but I believe in this group and most important of all, I believe in each of you.”

I gave all my students a puzzle piece and invited them to decorate each piece and add information about their likes and hobbies too. They put such passion into their work! It was inspiring to see kids who are usually reluctant to use colors, draw bright colorful pictures. It was amazing to see the shiest kids step in front of the class and proudly present their pieces. It was powerful to hear what everyone had to say about our group; what they thought they were doing well and what they thought they could do better. It was such a special time that we all decided to create a video to treasure the moment forever. Guess, who came up with the idea?… Yes, Martin!

Do you believe in your students? Are you positively convinced you can make a difference for them? I know it can sometimes be hard. All it takes is caring, believing in them, connecting with them and most important of all, patience and effort. We need to tell our students we believe in them at ALL times. How do you feel when someone believes in you? Imagine how powerful this can be for a kid! If we show our students how much we care and trust them we’ll be definitely paving the way for them to thrive.

* not his real name


42 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2011 4:40 pm

    So inspiring! And so much harder to do when you get them in high-school and they’ve had YEARS of low self-esteem! Sigh…

    • July 9, 2011 5:06 pm

      Thanks so much Naomi! It know it’s hard, but I’m pretty sure you get to make a difference for your high school students even after YEARS of low self-esteem. They are so lucky to have you! πŸ™‚

  2. July 8, 2011 7:07 pm

    I reckon most schools in the world have a so called “bad” group or class and that is a sad indictment on our profession.
    thanks for the post.

    • July 9, 2011 5:10 pm

      Thanks for your words Dan. I agree with you, it’s sad and labeling doesn’t help at all.If kids or groups weren’t labeled it’d be so much easier to reach out for our students! πŸ™‚

  3. sabridv permalink
    July 8, 2011 7:20 pm

    Hi Gret! I loved the post. I have some practical questions to ask you: How did you go about preparing the video? Did you prepare it or the students? At school or at home? I’m asking because I’m having some problems trying to organise my students to work with groups using technology. Thanks in advance. Kisses and hugs…

    • July 9, 2011 5:19 pm

      Thanks so much Sabri! We worked together discussing what we would include on the video. I organized it as a speaking activity and it went great. Then, I assigned roles. Some were responsible for taking the pictures, others chose the song, another group the video style, etc… All I did was put everything together and adjust last minute details. I find assigning roles really good when organizing this kind of activities. That way everyone is involved. Hope this helps. πŸ™‚

      • sabridv permalink
        July 9, 2011 7:17 pm

        Hi Gret! Thanks, I’ll take your idea into account. I’ll let you know how it goes, when I put this into practice. Assigning roles is a good idea. Haven’t thought about it!

  4. July 8, 2011 8:01 pm

    Great post Greta. I’m glad people are talking about bullying in all of its forms now. @davezirk

    • July 9, 2011 5:20 pm

      Thanks for your kind words and support Dave! I really appreciate it! πŸ™‚

  5. Janine Caffrey permalink
    July 9, 2011 9:56 am

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful work and experiences with us!

    • July 9, 2011 5:22 pm

      Thanks so much for your words Janine! Glad you stopped by my blog! Good luck on your new position. I know you’ll be doing amazing things! πŸ™‚

  6. July 9, 2011 2:29 pm

    Great idea! I can just imagine how powerful that was with your students. That sounds like a great community building activity for the beginning of the school year. If you made each puzzle piece on a thick cardstock or cardboard that could fit together like a puzzle, that could be a great center activity to use throughout the year.

    • July 9, 2011 5:25 pm

      Thanks Cindy! It was really powerful & I’m definitely going to do something similar again. Kids loved it. I liked your idea! Thanks for sharing it! Really appreciate it! πŸ™‚

  7. July 10, 2011 12:10 am

    What a great project! I love how you really helped change things around. These students are lucky to have you as their teacher!


    • July 10, 2011 12:21 am

      Aww thanks Aviva! It means a lot coming from you! Thanks for your constant support! Love learning with/from you! πŸ™‚

  8. July 10, 2011 12:24 am

    Wonderful activity, Greta! What a great way to build community! Have you considered posting each student’s puzzle pieces on a wall? I am contemplating activities to tap into my students’ passions and what makes them special, kind of like the concept of Identity Day. However, instead of a creating a tri-fold board to show interests, strengths, and passions, I want to let students choose their own product that best reflects these (animated slide show, art work piece, sound file with beats that they created, glog, etc).

    • July 10, 2011 6:08 pm

      Thanks so much Elle! So glad you liked it! Yes, we put together all the pieces and we posted it on a wall. I should post a picture of the giant puzzle too, right? I love what you’re planning to do. Can’t wait to read about it. I’m sure you’re students will love it! Thanks again for stopping by! πŸ™‚

  9. July 12, 2011 9:24 am

    This post is a great reminder especially as we start a new year. Clean slate for everyone…each child has a gift and it’s our job to help them find/share that with others.

    This past year I had a group that really had trouble working ‘in groups’. I think by the end of the year, after much practice and discussions about others’ feelings, they got it. It is such an important skill to be able to collaborate and get along, to be able to make compromises and to voice our opinions in such a way that others will listen.

    Love your video – really adds to the post too!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • July 12, 2011 9:39 am

      Thanks so much Nancy! It really means a lot! I agree with what you said. Every kid deserves a new start. I know it practice, listening and talking aren’t the easiest and fastest solutions, but it’s definitely the road every educator should take if we truly want to help our students. Your students are so lucky to have you Nancy! Thanks again for stopping by! πŸ™‚

  10. Kim White permalink
    July 12, 2011 8:12 pm

    Very inspiring! Thanks for your dedication!

  11. Sue Skeen permalink
    July 16, 2011 4:30 pm

    This is such a good idea. I loved it and I think it could work in high schools as well. I can imagine it working with any group–teams, faculties, etc.

    • July 17, 2011 10:53 pm

      Thanks for your kind words Sue! I totally agree with you, it could also work in high school! Please let me know if you do it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  12. July 29, 2011 11:20 am

    That is a great idea and video. I always tell my students even in my one Phys. Ed. class that everyone starts with a clean slate. Lots of encouragement about exercise and diet. We usually have a lot of fun and generally I can get most of them to help each other and encourage each other.n

    • August 16, 2011 8:30 am

      Thanks for your comment! Agree, everyone should start with a clean slate! We should always avoid labeling students and give each kid a chance to flourish! Thanks again!

  13. August 7, 2011 3:38 pm

    Greta – I *loved* this post! Raising aspirations and instilling self-belief is SUCH an important part of a teacher’s job, yet one overlooked so quickly. As a young secondary school teacher in the UK, I was often faced with kids who’d gone through years of being told they weren’t ‘good enough’ or ‘bright enough’ to excel – fixing that mental block became a key priority for me.

    I’d love your advice on the tool we’re building to help teachers help their students build the kind of positive characters you describe, and ultimately give the students both the self-belief and ability to have agency over their lives at school and beyond.
    Can we connect sometime?!



    • August 16, 2011 8:34 am

      Thanks so much Sam! Sorry for taking so long to reply, I’ve been really busy with school and tutoring, so I couldn’t pay much attention to my blog. I’d love to help, sounds like you’re building a wonderful tool! I’ll follow you on twitter so we can connect there. Thanks again for your words! πŸ™‚

  14. August 8, 2011 7:13 pm

    Very inspiring! I really like the puzzle pieces idea and am hoping to share this with some of my staff. Thank you for sharing this great idea.

    • August 16, 2011 8:36 am

      Thank YOU! So glad you liked the puzzle idea! Let me know if I can be of any help! Thanks again!

  15. Dan Gilbert permalink
    August 30, 2011 3:35 pm

    Hello, I have a quick question for you about your site. If you could please get back to me as soon as possible I would greatly appreciate it. Have a great day!

    Communications Coordinator
    Primrose Schools

    • August 30, 2011 5:20 pm

      Hello Dan! Thanks for checking out my blog. I’ll email you right away. You can also find me on twitter @gret. Thanks again!

  16. September 3, 2011 11:15 am

    Hi Gret,

    So very inspirational!!! Great Job! What program did you use to create the project?


    • September 3, 2011 11:14 pm

      Hi Niki! Thanks so much for your words!
      I used Animoto to create the video. You can get an educator’s account for free – – It’s a great tool! Good luck! πŸ™‚

  17. September 8, 2011 9:00 am

    Hi Gret,

    I really love your post. I’m from Indonesia, my friend call me Sam. We have this kind of issues in my country too, something about believing in the students.

  18. September 8, 2011 4:25 pm

    Positive language at all times and constructive criticism are essential when it comes to talking to children. Teachers must have faith that their students will try, they will work as hard as they can, they will work with you to reach a common goal, otherwise our efforts are wasted.

    As a teacher I work on a child’s confidence first and then focus on achievement. Getting a child to be confident in their ability and having them beleive that they can achieve changes their attitude to learning. It accelerates learning and there is no limit to their potential.

  19. September 9, 2011 2:36 am

    I only read two of your posts so far, the one about kids motivating one another to blog, and now this one. And I must say just after reading these two posts I’m starting to like what you write here! πŸ™‚ This post is very inspiring and really goes to show what we can do for students to make them feel they’re special. And in turn, seeing them become successful and highly motivated is a success for teachers.. Haha. πŸ™‚

    Excellent post Greta! πŸ™‚

  20. November 5, 2011 12:26 pm

    I think that the best thing that a teacher can really do is to affect lives and to create a difference in his/her students. This puzzle thing is really a good idea. ^^

  21. April 29, 2012 10:12 pm

    Ms. Sanders,
    My name is Heather Rigby and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at The University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama,. I think that doing the puzzle piece project is a wonderful idea. It allows each student to display differences and similarities. It also helps raise awareness of things ( ” what they thought they were doing well and what they thought they could do better.” ). I too, think that students “classes” or “groups” are labeled by others too much and too often. When I was in high school teachers heard of my class as “the bad class” for as long as I remember. When we would enter a new grade teachers would simply say “Yea, I have heard about y’all.” i believe that this simply gave some students the need to “live up to their name” instead of starting fresh and building from there, I really enjoyed your blog and the video. Animoto is so much fun!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Heather Rigby

  22. April 2, 2013 6:11 am

    Thanks for the great post and sharing this lovely video its really inspiring ,all the words written here is meaningful .All the best .

  23. April 24, 2013 1:29 pm

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post.
    It was practical. Keep on posting!


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