Should I care if my students like me?

I usually agree with Seth Godin but I think the tone of his post about Applause is wrong for education (I realize that he is talking about marketing). Particularly this quote:

 Who decides if your work is good? When you are at your best, you do.”

I think teachers often evaluate themselves too easily and blame students for their failures. I think students should have a say in evaluating teachers and how they teach. My concern is with teachers who dismiss all negative student comments and never consider if they are valid. These same teachers often assume that their teacher-centered methods are fine and that students need to adapt to them rather than vice-versa.

Too often I hear from educators comments such as “you can’t please everyone” or it is not my job to “be a student’s friend.” Now while there is some truth to these axioms I am concerned about teachers who seem to ignore how students feel about them as a person. Some teachers even brag about students being disciplined or “put in their place.”

So should teachers care if students “like” them? I think they should. Our first job as educators is to build relationships with students. How can students learn from or with us if they do not like us? Think back to your teachers (maybe way back for some of us). What do you remember? All of the content they taught you or how they made you feel? So I am concerned about teachers whose attitude is that is does not matter how students feel about them. This does not require us to be “best friends” or necessarily hang out socially with our students. But I do believe that teachers should get to know students personally. Students who enjoy you as a person are also more likely to enjoy your class.

So this week we had students fill out a long survey evaluating our school, the teachers, and our classes. I am the first to admit that I do not always accept criticism well (although ironically I really do want it). What came through on many of the anonymous surveys is that students do feel that I care about them and enjoy our class. I feel like I am doing a good job on my #1 goal for this year.

So I will go so far as to argue that making sure we have positive relationships with students is the most important and long-lasting part of our jobs. Will every student like us? Probably not, but we should try to build relationships with every student and impart love and confidence into their lives.

So Mr. Politician, #standardizethat

About Michael Kaechele

I like learning, sharing, technology, math, history, and concrete.
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8 Responses to Should I care if my students like me?

  1. becky7274 says:

    Michael, this is a really interesting post, and I will be curious to see what other people have to say about it.

    My personal goal is to meet all of my students’ needs: academic, emotional, and social. I completely understand the importance of building relationships with my students, and I put that far above many other things during the school year. I’ve never been been one of those people who believe in that, “Don’t let them see you smile until November!” BS. If your kids don’t see you as a human being and can’t tell that you care, nothing magical is ever going to happen in your classroom. Just look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and we can see that. Another point that you brought up that frustrates me? The “I taught it, but they didn’t learn it” mentality of some teachers. Sorry, but if the kids didn’t do well, you didn’t teach it. I agree with just about everything you said and wish more teachers would get students to evaluate how things go in the classroom.

    But I’m not sure that I want my kids to like me.

    Maybe a better way to say it is that I want my students to treat me as I treat them. I want them to watch how I work when I’m in groups or one-on-one with them and work that hard themselves. I want my kids to see how I say good morning to all of the kids in the hallway and ask how they are and then make the effort to be that kind and take an interest in each other. I want them to understand how much I respect them through my words and actions and then show that same respect to other students, adults and me. I would be much happier to see all of those behaviors rather than hearing students say they like me.

    Thanks for starting this conversation.


  2. Lindsey says:

    Completely agree! We shouldn’t be our students’ “friends”… Hanging out, sharing gossip, sharing details of our lives. But our students should know that we appreciate them as individuals, support them, and are trustworthy.


  3. Thansk for the piece. My only thought here is how ‘loose’ the word like is. I am not sure if like is actually the best word for what it is you seek from your students. Is it about respect? (which for some students, particularly younger students, is articulated as like). Students might not ‘like’ that the teacher gives them challenging work, but might acknowledge that they are helping their learning. There are a few other similar semantic differences that could be related. Whilst I don’t particularly care if students ‘like’ me, I do wish for them to feel supported, empowered, believe that I have their best interests at heart and help their learning journey. Do people have to like me to feel any or all of those?


  4. I want my students to like my class and me. Although, I’d be okay with them liking the class but not me. We just had our first day of school yesterday. As we were preparing for school last week, our principal challenged us to really get to know our students.

    Today, as I was chatting with the science teacher who now teaches my students from last year, I realized that I do really know my students well. That is definitely because of the emphasis I place on our classroom community and relationships. I love to have a good laugh with my kids, but we also know when it’s time to focus.

    I personally think having an environment like that makes the learning space more attractive to students. Plus, I know they will walk away with at least some memory of my class. I hope I made at least a small impact on my students, and the fact some still keep in touch with me makes me think I have. (And I’m not going to lie, it makes my day when any student – current or former – tells me I’m their favorite teacher!)


  5. Thanks for some great discussion. So Steve brings up an interesting point about the word “like.” What is it about teachers that makes them want to avoid this word? What is a better word? Respect is not good enough for me. I can respect a talented individual and still not like them. Derek Jeter or Lebron James come to mind…

    The origin of this post comes from listening to students complain about a certain teacher and then hearing the teacher complain about them. They don’t like each other and the teacher tries to use her authority to get what she wants in the classroom and it just backfires by making students angry. The teacher then blames the students, when really it is her authoritarian style and I just don’t believe students can learn much, if anything from this teacher because they do not like her.

    I don’t need to be every student’s best friend or favorite teacher, but if they have positive feelings toward me and my class then I believe they are receptive to learning. I also believe the opposite is true. Can an adolescent really learn anything from someone that they don’t like?


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