10 Things My Students Taught me

Updated on October 19, 2013

The Light Bulb Moment

The light bulb moment. Anyone who has ever worked with kids know about this. The kid who has been struggling has a moment where you can see it in his eyes: "Oh! I get it now!" As a teacher, I live for this moment. It's like the hidden treasure in what seems to be an average day.

But what I didn't realize is that my students had an amazing impact on me, as well. I worked the music program of several middle schools, and it has brought so much joy to my life. The majority of the kids struggled to fit in with their peers, but they were often the brightest of the bunch. I felt so privileged to learn and grow from their influences, and I look forward to the day when I can give back what I have been given.

I also worked as a statistics teacher for a university. I taught the remedial class, which meant I worked with the students who did not score high enough on placement tests to be put in a regular-paced course. During my time there, I worked with freshman, moms wanting to go back to work, adults wanting a change of career, and retired military attempting to get back into the civilian world.

So here's a little of what they taught me:

#10: Students always know when you are unprepared

When I first began working as a teacher, I didn't always think ahead. I thought that, some days, it would be ok to just show up and wing it. I was wildly misleaded.

They know. I don't know how, but they do. They know that there was no real assignment or plan for the day, and they WILL take advantage. They will try everything they can to get the discussion off-topic, to distract you from giving them any real work, and to basically just goof off for the entire time they're with you.

My lesson: always come prepared.


#9: Kids notice EVERYTHING

Ok, I'm a soda junkie, and the kids noticed. If they see me without my caffeine, they ask me if something's wrong. They also noticed that I am a little OCD, and I like things a certain way. I like things to be put in the right place, and I am happier if things are neat and orderly.

This created a game: the "Let's see how much stuff we can move without the teacher noticing."

I think I made it about a week before I started realizing what was going on. All of a sudden, my stapler was taped to the underside of the desk, posters were tilted to be just slightly uneven, and I had no idea what happened to all of my dry-erase markers! My classroom was chaos.

They all thought that they were pretty clever for doing this, and we all had a good laugh in the end.

Have you ever learned anything from an unexpected source?

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#8: Students will be amazed that you are a real person

To them, you exist only in the school. Your entire life is devoted to lesson plans, decorating your classroom, and all things teacher-y. If they see you in the real world, it blows their mind!

I can remember seeing students on several occasions at random places like the grocery story or the mall. I always get one of two reactions.

1. The student will run up, hug me, and exclaim, "What are you doing here?!"

2. The student will avoid me at any length, and they will attempt to become invisible.

The student will always, once back in the classroom, announce, "Hey! I saw you yesterday at insert meeting place here." It's like a badge of honor to spot a teacher outside of his or her natural habitat.


#6: You have to give respect to get it

This one is kind of a no brainer. I see a lot of new teachers come into a classroom and basically expect that every student will show proper respect.

This is a myth.

In fact, you have to prove to them why you deserve respect. Tell them about your education, your life, and your goals. It will help them to see you as an authority.

#7: Dancing, singing, or generally making a fool of yourself will make any lesson memorable

I think School House Rock videos made this concept very clear. If you add a level of entertainment, the students forget that they are learning and actually take in a lot of the information.

Lesson learned: add music, hand motions, dance, or any other kind of kinesthetic activities to lessons to make them easier to comprehend

#5: Students will love seeing you make a fool of yourself

In this video, students are supposedly being interviewed for an end-of-the-year video. However, the teachers pull a little prank. Enjoy!

#4: Not fitting in can be the worst feeling ever

Working with the marching band, you meet a lot of nerdy kids. They like Pokémon, reading, and all kinds of other stuff that other kids deem "uncool." These kids tend to be the outcasts among their peers.

This always broke my heart because, too often, these kids were some of the best people around. They were funny, courteous, generous, easy-going, and just plain awesome to be around. Seeing them struggle was difficult to watch.

That's one thing I loved about the band. It gave the kids a home on campus. They met other kids with similar interests, and they made friends easily. I was a part of the marching band when I was younger, so I can attest to this: marching band friends are friends for life.


#2: I have "boy handwriting"

I write on the board, send notes home, or write on papers and such that I pass back. Kids see my handwriting all the time. And once one kid was brave enough to say it, it became the joke of the class. Anytime I gave someone a hard time about something, their response would always be: "at least I don't have boy handwriting!"

Lesson learned: kids are blunt... don't take it to heart

#3: A little "hello" can make someone's day

Every student wants to feel seen. I find that, when walking through campus during break times, saying "hey" to the students I recognize will immediately illicit a smile.

Small gestures like that can make a student feel noticed, important, and overall more content in a school environment.

Lesson learned: SMILE!!

#1: Assumptions Can Be Deadly

I will never forget my first day teaching a beginner-level statistics class. I made a lot of assumptions about the students' personalities and potential levels. One student, in particular, was able to prove me wrong.

This young man slouched his way into my classroom with headphones blaring and pants practically at his ankles. He had the "gangster" vibe all over him. I thought, "Oh no. This guy is going to be trouble." I was sure that he would struggle with the material, and I was worried that he would be a behavioral problem.

I was SO wrong. He was on-time to class everyday, and he was always called me "ma'am," even thought it was obvious that I was only a few years his elder. He did have some struggles with the material, but he attended the tutoring sessions offered by our university, and he was sure to ask me any questions he had while in my class.

I had never been so pleased to be wrong. He turned out to be one of my favorite students, and he taught me one of the biggest lessons of my life: never judge a book by its cover, and never assume a students' potential from the sag in his pants.

© 2013 Stephanie Constantino


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    • Better Yourself profile image

      Better Yourself 4 years ago from North Carolina

      What a wonderful hub and you seem like an awesome teacher! I'm not a teacher but one of my best friends is and I enjoy hearing all of her student stories and all she learns by being in the school environment. Really enjoyed the video of teachers dancing! And congrats on HOTD!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country

      Obviously you are a good learner as well as a good teacher. As other educators have already indicated, this seemed very familiar. I was a sub teacher for 12 years in grades K-6.

      One day at the supermarket I saw a familiar kid -- 10 or 11 years old-- who recognized me.

      "Hey", he said "You were my teacher a few days ago!"

      "Hi, George, How are you?" I responded.

      His mom's jaw dropped. "YOU REMEMBER HIS NAME? ? Is this behavior related??"

      I grinned, (because it was sort of behavior related), but I played it down a bit. It was nothing serious, just a 10 year old with a lot of energy and imagination.

      "No, he was fine, but I do remember names."

      Your experiences are very well related and very well organized. I like the way you put this hub together... and I think I may have learned something from it, too.

    • Tom Schumacher profile image

      Tom Schumacher 4 years ago from Huntington Beach, CA

      Congrats on HOTD, Stephanie! I enjoyed reading the top ten ways in which your students have taught you. Although not a teacher myself, per se, as a manager I have spent a great deal of time training and overseeing employee performance. Therefore I can relate to line items #s 1, 3, 6 and 10. Great information. Thanks for sharing. ~ Voted up.

    • W1totalk profile image

      W1totalk 4 years ago

      I just know groups of kids are powerful. Great article and observance of the power of children.

    • Hui (蕙) profile image

      Hui (蕙) 4 years ago

      Apparently, you are an amazing teacher, upon which can see you must have a positive attitude for common life. Nice to meet you.

    • word55 profile image

      Word 4 years ago from Chicago

      Hey Steph 7889, that was very good. Nice music selections, video and all. At least you didn't outwardly judge him but you seemed to be cool and waited to see how it would go. You didn't panic or did you. anyway, I give you lots of credit. Keep on teaching and writing!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      This was a terrific hub. I used to teach Intro to Psych and Small Group Behavior when I was a grad student, and what you're saying is absolutely true. They're shocked that you're a person outside of the teacher role. Humor in the classroom goes a long way, too. Congratulations on HOTD.

    • Thief12 profile image

      Thief12 4 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Loved this article! as a fellow teacher that has worked for 13+ years, I can identify with all your points. It was like reading a picture of things that have happened to me, LOL!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on HOTD!

      Very well said. I'm not a teacher, in the formal sense, but every parent is their child's first teacher. I have taught as a Girl Scout troop leader when my kids were young. Iin the same capacity, I've also taught outdoor skills to the other adults...(some of whom had no clue about camping, and we fielded questions ranging from "where do you get your hot water?" to "What's a sleeping bag?")

      I always preferred the fun approach. The parent group I was with when my kids were in grade school had a partnership in the school library's program, called "Reading is Fundamental." We made posters that emphasized the first syllable in the final word: "FUNdamental." I believe the same should be true of all learning. Kids will learn if they think they're having fun.

      Allow a goof-off session for 5 or 10 minutes--during which time, you 'goof off' yourself...move stuff, hide stuff...put feet on desk, etc. Then, ask them if they noticed or learned anything during that time. You may be surprised to find an affirmative reply, and find they may be more observant than you think. ;-)

      (Hilarious video, BTW)

      Voted up, interesting, useful and shared.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      As a former college teacher myself, I can tell you that all of this applies to adult "kids," too. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • Stephanie7889 profile image

      Stephanie Constantino 4 years ago from Fountain, CO

      Thank you, all, for your positive feedback. Teaching is truly my passion, and I love sharing my experiences. Good luck to those of you about to enter the field. Becoming a teacher has seriously been one of the greatest experiences of my life!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Wonderful hub!

      I agree with you that we learn from our students and I can relate to the points you made.

      Congratulations for the well deserved HOTD!

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 4 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      congrats, such a nice hub! your a great teacher!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      I have always said that my students taught me as much as I taught them, at times, in the past twenty-five years in which I was teacher. It was often a mutual learning experience. Thank you for this reminder. whonu

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Great Hub. Love that comment - never jugdge a student by the sag in his pants!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on your Hub of the Day! All of these are great points! I have a couple of teachers that are now my Facebook friends, and it is strange to see them talking about family and nonschool activities, even though it has been decades since I was their student.

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 4 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      These points are spot on! I have learned so much from the variety of students I have taught throughout the years, as well. Great hub!

    • ktnptl profile image

      ktnptl 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      So nice article. I realized yes, kids notice EVERYTHING.

    • cianeko profile image

      Cianeko Abueva 4 years ago

      This is so interesting and helpful Stephanie7889. I'm a junior student taking up a degree in secondary education. Next year, I'll be off in the field to have my student teaching. Whew! I'm quiet excited, but sometimes the thought of it makes me a bit sick and nervous though.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips! :-)

    • lobobrandon profile image

      Brandon Lobo 4 years ago

      Haha that's so true, coming from a student here. I enjoyed reading this hub.

    • profile image

      Joyce 4 years ago

      Excellent article. As a teacher on and off, this stuff happens. Enjoyed the video too.

    • profile image

      Rob 4 years ago

      Wow! As I await this Year's topics to volunteer coach Jr. High Academic Decathlon, here you are to remind me HOW IT'S DONE with actual humans in the seats. They act that way off-campus, by the way, because you belong to a higher order of beings: real teachers (like my wife, not amateurs like myself) are angels. Of course you don't shop or go to the park.