What Matters Most to Kids: Lessons Learned from My Elementary Students


The role of an educator becomes increasingly difficult each school year. The pressure to have all students score proficient on high stakes tests, the mandates and laws that sometimes overpower the profession, and the dynamics of our students make being an educator more challenging than ever before. The one constant is the obvious: KIDS. They are always there, waiting for us to acknowledge them, teach them, and love them. Even the most defiant, rebellious child longs to be loved and appreciated by us. While the curriculum, mandates, and expectations of the profession are a must, those are not the things that mean the most to our children. Deep down I have always known this, but was recently reminded by many students and staff. I received a journal from the school where I serve as an assistant principal. Inside the pages were filled with notes from students, teachers, and staff. I have read through it multiple times, and each time I was brought to tears. This gift is a reminder that we must remember what is truly important to our kids. Simply stated, the little things mean the most. I want to share a few written and verbal quotes from students who have taught me that the little things make a big difference as an administrator. Enjoy!

Smiles photo8 (2)

  • “Your smile makes me smile.” ~Zachary
  • “You always give me a smile when I need it.” ~Carson
  • “You are allways smiyl. I think it’s becuz you love me so much.”~ Cailyn
  • “When you smile I always want to hug you!” ~Lainey

A smile goes a long way! Kids have reminded me of this many times. I sometimes think of the fact that we may be the only people who make eye contact and smile at a particular child. It is a simple gesture, but one that must be intentional and consistent.

Morning Greetings photo4 (2)

  • “Thank you for greeting us on the way to school.” ~Brendan
  • “Thank you for helping us out of cars every day.” ~Zachary
  • “When you aren’t at the front door in the mornings, I miss you.” ~Morgan
  • “My mommy and me always see you waving and smiling right when we pull in the school!” ~Abigail
  • “How do you know all of our names when you say good morning? That’s like magic.” ~Gauge

When I first became an administrator, I had no idea how important it would become for me to be visible first thing in the morning. Waves, high fives, some hugs, and smiles can turn a child’s day around. We have no idea what kids have experienced when they step off the bus or out of their car. Some of them are coming from situations that our minds cannot fathom. A little dose of encouragement can change a person’s mindset! The morning greeting time is my favorite part of the day, and starts my own day on a positive note.

Hugs photo3 (3)

  • “I am so glad principals hug at this school. My old school didn’t have that rule.” ~Megan
  • “You like my hugs because you always have your arms open. That’s why I hug you every day!” ~Cheyenne
  • “When I leave for middle school I will miss you hugging me and telling me to have a good day.”~ Sierra
  • “You always know when I need a hug, Mrs. Hill.” ~Haley

Smiles, greetings, and hugs…the little things that make a big difference in the lives of children. I firmly believe that no child can be given too much attention, validation, or credit for who they are inside. They deserve our focus, even if only for a few seconds throughout the days of school. These seconds add up to minutes and hours of investment in individuals. The consistency of connection with kids provides a secure feeling within that they are important, valued, and you are glad they are present. Smiles, greetings, and hugs do not cost a thing, except your time. I can think of no better way to invest parts of my day than to connect with kids, not by happenstance, but intentionally. Target particular students. Single them out to speak with them. Be intentional with your connections.

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Kids are often more focused on what is truly important than adults are…we need to listen to them and allow them to teach us. I learn something new from a child every day, and the quotes I have shared with you are a glimpse of my learning. I could write a book on lessons learned from children.

Keep the little things on your priority list. They are the constant in your day. They are how you will stay balanced as an educator. When we have balance, we are more productive, and will keep the passion in what we do

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5 thoughts on “What Matters Most to Kids: Lessons Learned from My Elementary Students

  1. What great reminders to us all, Bethany. I don’t know many AP’s who are as visible as you are–and the kids see it. It’s no wonder you’re stepping up to Principal. Your magic will transcend in bigger ways. Great post!

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