Advice for Teachers as the Academic Year Ends

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
William Arthur Ward

Here at my college, as well as at all those colleges and Universities on the semester system, the academic year is coming to an end. For those of you in elementary or secondary schools — or on quarters at college — you’ve got less than two months until the years is out.

And while “school’s out” may be the ultimate goal for many of you, as your finals, last papers, grading, and exams will all be over at last, I’d like to suggest one more thing to think about.

Think about where your students are going to find themselves five, ten, or fifteen years from now. While opportunities may seem limitless, especially for those students who are excelling right now, there’s a very simple thing you can do to help.

Pull one of them aside, at some point, and praise them. Encourage them. Tell them that you noticed that they’re good at something, and that you think they have the potential to be excellent at (insert ambitious career path here).

It doesn’t matter what the age of your student is, either. If you notice something exceptional, take those extra few minutes — even if it’s just for one student — and let that student know what you see.

Why? Because many students go through their whole academic lives without ever being encouraged like that. Even, believe it or not, the really great students. I’m not sure if it’s because people assume that a hard working, quiet student who achieves highly doesn’t need the extra praise or help, but down the road, it can make all the difference in the world.

Image credit: Nannie and B's crafts.

Think someone would make an excellent doctor? Scientist? Musician? Let them know the good things and the potential for even better things that you see in them; you might be the only one ever to offer something like that. Offer to write a letter of recommendation for them in the future, whatever it may hold.

Those few minutes you spend on that student may be more valuable to them than you can possibly know. It’s possible that letting them know that you noticed how good they are can help them believe in themselves enough to chase that dream they may have let fade away otherwise. If you find the time (and the right student), give it a shot. You might be one who makes all the difference.