Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me? A Student’s Perspective by Stephen G. Peters

My Teacher Doesn’t Like Me

  • Students often make this statement. They are probably right as most kids are hard to fool. Step one is to never lie. Children can handle the truth. It’s the lies that break them. Look for opportunities to have positive contacts with difficult students outside of class. You have to invest time up front to form a working relationship if you want to avoid writing discipline referrals. It’s easy to accept compliant students, but it’s necessary to accept them all! In the classroom, plan time for individual contact rather than talking in front all the time. Pay attention to non verbal behaviors like eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and proximity. You also need to inject humor and be sure to laugh at yourself and let the students do so as well. Page 56 gives a list of inviting comments to use and disinviting comments to avoid.

Capture, Inspire, Teach

  • Stephen believes that motivating students in the key and that a positive working relationship is the best place to start. Relationships between adults are also important as they help set the tone for students. Among other things, adults need a common vision, quality leaders, quality professional development, and a belief in continuous improvement. Generally, 90% of a school’s discipline problems come from 10% of the students. Your job is to capture the 10%. Stephen gives specific tips for what you can try in certain situations.

Nobody Rises to Low Expectations

  • Stephen recalls a favorite teacher who thought he was smarter than he did. This caused him to rise to meet her expectations. (Doug: Note that there is research that says you should praise kids for hard work rather than being smart.) Here are some more tips. 1) Create a warm, accepting yet business-like classroom environment. 2) Students are more likely to be motivated by the joy of exploring new things, but privileges and praise can help. 3) Caution must be exercised in the use of external rewards. 4) Motivation increases when material is well organized and meaningful to the individual. Relate things to what students know and check for understanding. 5) Learning is most effective when a student is ready to learn. Teachers need to encourage this development. Goals need to be realistic. 6) Some anxiety is fine but teachers need to identify sources of needless stress and work to remove them. One can be unhealthy competition. On pages 68-69 Stephen gives a table of motivational strategies. (Doug: You can also read my summary of Daniel Pink’s book on motivation, Drive.)

Strategies for Urban Youth

  • Here Stephen provides 20 specific things you can do and say that have worked for him. They are all good, but here are some of my favorites. 1) Ask students politely to do things rather than issuing orders. 2) Seek to understand by asking students explain themselves again. 3) Tell them that you are there to help them any way you can. 4) Always keep your word and be on time. 5) Listen to both sides of a dispute and don’t take sides or prejudge. 5) Be flexible. Don’t let rules rule the day. 6) Smile 7) Know where each child is academically and help them make the next logical step. 8) Don’t let others influence your thinking with negative comments about students. 9) Love each child the same way.


  • Stephen ends the book with a touching story about a teacher that stopped teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic and started teaching children. I wouldn’t dream of trying to summarize it, but I will tell you that I was wiping my eyes by the end. It would be reason enough to own this book.
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