Do Your Students Feel Like They Matter & Have Value?

As I returned to the classroom last week, I’ve reflected on interactions I’ve had with students as I seek to get to know them and help them get to know me. As educators, our interactions with students are critical in building relationships, modeling appropriate communication, and establishing connections that encourage students to strive for greatness. 

One negative experience a student has with an adult can undo a lot of good and be very difficult to overcome. 

Throughout my 20+ years in education I have come to believe:
  • All students should be treated with dignity and respect.
  • We should speak to and treat students as if their parents were right there with us.
  • If we wouldn't say it in front of their parents, we shouldn't say it in front of anybody else.
We must remember that our students are not finished products. They will make mistakes and disappoint us. However, it is important that we continue providing them a consistent, encouraging environment every day. 

It is possible to maintain high expectations and hold them accountable while extending both love and grace. 

The magnitude of our mission is great. May all of our students feel like they matter and have value when they’re around us.

Doug Dunn has over 20 years of experience in education as a classroom teacher and administrator. After ten years of serving in multiple administrative positions, including elementary principal, junior high principal, athletic director, and superintendent, Doug returned to the classroom this year to reclaim some of the joy in education that cannot be replicated in the office. He currently teaches high school algebra and coaches girls basketball at Steelville (MO) High School. Doug can be found on Twitter at DougDunnEdS.

This post was originally published on August 28, 2023.

What Blockbuster Can Teach Us About Fostering a Love of Reading

My two oldest daughters recently purchased their very first books at an actual bookstore. Yes, we’ve gone to the library and purchased online before, but this was a new experience for them. We don’t have big bookstores where we live and made a point to stop at a Barnes & Noble during a recent trip. 

My middle child searched for over an hour and was on the verge of leaving without a book had it not been for a collective, determined effort to help her. My oldest daughter, however, found three books within the first ten minutes upon entering the store. 

I asked Ella how she settled on her books so quickly, and she responded that her friends had talked about them. Had it not been for these informal book talks, her experience that day would likely have been similar to her sister’s. 

This made me think of the good ol’ days of visiting the local movie store to rent movies. If we had no idea what we wanted to watch, we’d spend a great deal of time roaming the aisles and reading back covers before ultimately deciding on what to (or not to) rent. However, if somebody had told us about a good movie we’d likely go right to it hoping to find an available copy on the shelf. 

There is a lesson to be learned here when it comes to fostering a love of reading. Our kids need to experience more book talks at school. We cannot leave this to chance.

How often do teachers have a few spare moments here or there in class? When you consider the frequency in which students may be entertaining themselves on devices at the end of class time, it’s likely more often than we realize. These moments are great opportunities for students and teachers to talk about books and series they’ve read and enjoyed. 

If we want to foster a love of reading, we must be intentional with the experiences we facilitate. Book talks are quick, simple, and powerful ways to help do this. They could be done during the first 5 minutes of PE or at the end of class following an Algebra test. 

As educators, it’s up to all of us to help foster a love of reading. Our efforts could result in blockbuster impacts on our students.

Below are a few resources I’ve found online for book talk strategies and ideas:

Doug Dunn is currently junior high principal for the Licking (MO) School District. He has previously served as a K-8 superintendent and elementary principal. Doug can be found on Twitter @DougDunnEdS.

Responding to Adversity

High school athletics can help teach and instill many character traits that will benefit students later in life in their quest for success. I reflected on this recently after being asked a very good question from a lady at church. 

The person asking the question had read a Facebook post where I expressed my gratitude for a particular group of parents I had while coaching. This group of parents never approached me with a criticism - either directly or indirectly. 

The question was “do you think they didn’t complain because all their kids got playing time?”

The simple answer is no. Throughout my 20+ years in public education, I have experienced or observed parents complaining about more than just playing time. Complaints or criticisms could come from what offense or defense you run, what position their child plays, an in-game adjustment, how many shots their child gets, how their child is substituted, and more. 

Several years ago, a team I was coaching trailed by three points in a game with just a few seconds remaining. I called a timeout and put my best three point shooters on the floor. I removed a particular player who was not a great shooter at the time. This grew the ire of his parents. They requested a meeting with me to complain about my decision to remove their son for the final shot. It was not a pleasant meeting. 

What transpired ended up being a beautiful thing. The young man became determined to never let that happen again. He didn’t rely on his parents to complain their way to more playing time or complain their way to influencing the coach’s decisions. No, this young man went to work. By the next season, he was one of the best shooters on the team. He took his frustrations into his own hands and made himself better. This, in turn, made his team better. 

I believe this is a great example from which all parents and players could learn. When things don’t go our way, we cannot complain our way to a solution - or at least a solution that benefits the team more than the individual. But what we can do is learn the “why” and get to work. 

When facing adversity, we don’t learn and grow when others move to the front lines for us to fight our battles. We learn and grow when we take an honest look at our circumstances and frustrations. We learn and grow when we stay on the front lines ourselves determined to improve in the areas that caused our frustration. 

Parents, it’s ok to let our children fail, struggle, or become frustrated. It’s our job as parents and coaches to help them learn determination and resiliency as they conquer their own adversity. In doing so, we help our children develop character traits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Doug Dunn is currently junior high principal for the Licking (MO) School District. He has previously served as a K-8 superintendent and elementary principal. Doug can be found on Twitter @DougDunnEdS.