4 Things That Happen When Your Students Know You Love Them

Take five minutes to watch this video. It might make you tear with happiness, but it will also remind you of the choices we have and the impact we can make if we act with love and compassion in mind.

One particular remark in this video got me thinking. “Teachers are supposed to have these professional boundaries and what not, but really, her heart has no boundaries.” There are two things that I wish teachers would do more:

  1. Hug their students (show some emotion!).
  2. Let their students know they love them. When you mean it, it can transform a student.

I know some schools forbid teachers from hugging their students. In graduate school, I was advised by my professors of the side-hug and that one must never actually hug a child. I began teaching with this in mind. I made sure to only side-hug and to be careful about how much I opened my heart to my students.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that censoring care, kindness, and an outward expression of love was BS. So I hug my students. I tell them that I love them. I tell them whole class. And I tell them at appropriate moments one-on-one. Here are some things that begin to happen when your students know you love them.

  1. Improved self-esteem. They smile and feel good inside. Going to school feels less painful, less of a chore. The perceptions of school can change to a safe, fun and happy place.
  2. Student motivation increases. Love is reciprocal. When students know you truly care, they work harder and take greater risks.
  3. You become a real person. Too often students don’t see their teachers as real people because they do not seem like real people; they do not share or offer real emotions. Attitudes shift when students stop seeing you as a thing or a position and begin seeing you as a person.
  4. They love you back. 

We spend a considerable amount of time with our students in the classroom, and yes, after a couple months, I love them. Why hold that back?

School isn’t all academic. Whether you have a character education program at your school or not, building character is a byproduct of schooling. And what better way to teach strong character than by example. We want kids to be kind, caring, compassionate and loving. So, mustn’t we be the same?

Don’t be afraid to tell your students you love them.

Choosing, Sharing, and Spreading Kindness

Here is a picture book for you to consider for your upper elementary classroom, as well as an activity to drive the powerful message of the story home.


About the Book: Each Kindness is a picture book about a girl, Chloe, who is unkind to a new student named Maya. One day, Maya doesn’t return to school. After a lesson about kindness from her teacher, Chloe recognizes the impact of her choices to be unkind. She hopes Maya will return so she will have an opportunity to be friendly to her. But Maya doesn’t return. And Chloe doesn’t receive another chance. Instead, she is left only with the memories of her unkind choices.

Teaching Point: This book doesn’t have a feel-good, fairy-tale ending, but it shares a wonderful message: We don’t always receive a second chance. Sometimes we have to live with our choices and we don’t get a do over. On Jacqueline Woodson’s website she shares the following explanation for why she wrote this book: “At some point in our lives, we are all unkind. At some point, we are all treated unkindly. I wanted to understand this more. I think too often we believe we’ll have a second chance at kindness – and sometimes we don’t. I do believe, as Chloe’s teacher, Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world. I wrote this because I believe in kindness.” This is a truly great message that students are ready to hear in 5th grade.

Student Response to the Story: The pictures are engaging, and the characters are relatable. My students were moved as I read it aloud. They were, however, disappointed with the ending. “What?!” they blurted. “That’s it?!” But these reactions are great, because they lead to the teaching point – we don’t always receive a second chance. You’ll be left with an excellent opportunity to discuss kindness, second chances, and choices after reading this book. If you read this book with your class or child, ask them, “How did you expect it to end?” and, “How would most authors choose to end this novel?” After discussing the ending and the meaning of the story, their final impression shifted. As we transitioned to our next subject, I overheard students talking positively to each other about the book. “That was a really good book.” “It was sad, but it’s true.” Message delivered. 🙂

Kindness Activity: After reading the book, begin a daily activity inspired by the following lines in the story,

Each Kindness

Each Kindness – By Jacqueline Woodson

Ms. Albert had brought a big bowl into class and filled it with water. We gathered around her desk and watched her drop a small stone into it. Tiny waves rippled out, away from the stone. This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.


At the end of each school day, have each student share a kindness. Through this activity, students become more aware of their choices and the impact they have on others. Sharing kindnesses is fun and promotes self-love as well. I enjoy seeing the pride on my students faces as they share, and I absolutely love the effect recognizing and sharing kindnesses has on the ambience of our room.



‘Tis the Season: Picture Book Fun

It’s December! Which means it’s time for my picture book advent activity! My 5th graders absolutely loved it last year, so starting on December 1st, I began the second annual Countdown to Holiday Break with Picture Books.


December Picture Book Activity – Students Open One Book Each Day

The excitement around books and reading during this month is exhilarating. Every student, yes every student, is eager to gather on the carpet after lunch. The excitement heightens as one of their classmates unwraps the book, and the enthusiasm sticks around through the next day when it’s time to open our next one. In 5th grade, we’re able to have great book talks about each story, share thoughts, opinions, or theories about the book, and draw connections to our learning in Reading and Writing. End point: it’s a valuable and fun experience for all.

I’m thrilled with my book list this year. Here it is, in order.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  1. What Do You Do With An Idea? – By Kobi Yamada
  2. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole – By Mac Barnett
  3. Nightsong – By Ari Berk
  4. The Most Magnificent Thing – By Ashley Spires
  5. Two Bad Ants – By Chris Van Allsburg
  6. The Day the Crayons Quit – By Drew Daywalt
  7. Each Kindness – By Jacqueline Woodson
  8. Leonardo the Terrible Monster – By Mo Willems
  9. Bad Day at Riverbend – By Chris Van Allsburg
  10. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – By Judith Viorst
  11. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick – By Chris Van Allsburg
  12. A Boy Named Beckoning – By Gina Capaldi
  13. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla – By Katherine Applegate
  14. Henry’s Freedom Box – By Ellen Levine
  15. The Nightmare Before Christmas – By Tim Burton
  16. Bonus: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas – By Dr. Seuss (We invite our Junior Kindergarten buddies to the classroom to enjoy this book with us.)

Last year, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, The Day the Crayons Quit and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick were class favorites – I ask my students to vote for their favorite at the end of each week. It’ll be interesting to see if the favorites are the same this year. I already know they are crazy about Sam and Dave Dig a Hole; they’ll be voting on their favorite from Week 1 tomorrow.

Last year, I wrote about Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Nightsong. Click the links to read my previous posts. I’ll be posting about a few more books this week as well.

Do you have a favorite picture book that you like to share with your upper elementary class? I’d love to hear what it is!