Kids Do Better When We Talk to Them

Bobbie FrenchBlog, Connect Better, Manage Better


  • Talk to your students.
  • Students need the opportunity to explain their thinking and express their thoughts and feelings.
  • As an educator, ask students questions and listen to their responses.

We all want students to rise to their full potential.  We want that as educators, parents, and even as a community.

I could get up on my soapbox about how education should be a priority in our country because of that, but I won’t waste this blog post space on something we all know as educators.

I want to talk about how our Kids Do Better When We Talk to Them.  You may be thinking, I talk to my kids every day.  I want to challenge you to think about how often you have really talked to them.  Have you asked them what’s going on and listened to them?

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Kids Know Best

Kids may be still learning and considered students of many things, but they know best about themselves. They are the only ones that can tell you what’s going on in their minds. What they are thinking, their likes, dislikes, fears, and so much more.

I’ve seen it many times. A group of adults sitting around a table discussing a student’s situation and what they are going to do to make it better.  What we don’t do is talk to the student. We forget they are the expert on themselves and don’t think they have insight that could help us help them.

Student Voice

We are hearing more and more about including student voice at school.  We want to give students an opportunity to be heard in the classroom.  To do this, we have them contribute to classroom rules and expectations. We create classroom or school charters. We create student leaders through school councils and other groups to offer student voice.

Students are provided ways to have a voice in what they are learning in the classroom. We provide opportunities for a genius hour or passion projects. This gives students a chance to voice what they want to learn about.  

Ask Questions

These are great practices to continue in your classroom and school.  We also need to remember to talk with students. Ask them questions. Find out what is bothering them.  Ask them how they think a problem can be solved.

I want to share a story with you that helps me remember why I ask questions of students.

I had been a principal at this K-5 school for only a few weeks. My office was across from what was then our behavior classroom.  I heard a lot of commotion in the hallway, so I walked out of my office to find out what was happening.  I saw a teacher dragging her second-grade student down the hall by his arm.  She was yelling at him for spitting on his desk. 

I approached the two of them and asked what happened.  The teacher explained that she had asked the students to clear off their desks to get ready for the lesson. She looked over and saw the student spitting on the desk and using his sleeve to wipe it off.  She was so upset by the behavior that she removed him from the classroom which is where I came upon them.  I asked the student why he was spitting on his desk.

Now, this should not be an aha moment, but it was.

It’s a lesson that has stayed with me since and why I always, I mean ALWAYS ask students why. I ask them what’s going on. I ask them how I can help.

Back to my student—I bent down, got on his eye level, and asked, “Why were you spitting on your desk?” And he simply replied, “I was clearing it”.  Aha—this student was not being disrespectful. He was not being defiant. He did not have the skills or the understanding that spitting on your desk and wiping it with your sleeve is not the way to clean your desk and that it is not a good time to clean your desk when your teacher is starting a lesson.  We worked with this student to learn these skills. We taught him why using his spit was not cleaning his desk but actually making it dirtier with germs. Then, we taught him how and when to clean his desk.

This student did not deserve to be dragged down the hallway and yelled at for having underdeveloped skills.

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Take Time to Listen

We need to remember that we need to talk with students. We don’t need to talk at them.  Instead, we talk with them and ask them what is going on. Ask them why they do what they do. Ask them what is hard for them and why they think it is hard for them.

This may seem simple, but when you talk with them, you also need to listen to what they have to say. Students don’t always make sense at first, or we dismiss what they say. We think they are not telling the truth, or we back off when they respond with, “I don’t know.” Often times the “I don’t know” is a reaction to not knowing what to say or whether or not they trust us enough to share their thoughts and feelings. 

Give It a Try

There’s no better time than now to incorporate talking and listening to students into your practice.  I know that it sounds simple but take time now to reflect on your practice. Start by asking yourself questions about how you currently talk and listen to students. 

Make a note in your planbook, on your desk, or at the top of your to-do list to remind yourself to Ask & Listen this year.  I know it will make a tremendous difference in your classroom practice, and you too will realize that Kids Do Better When You Talk to Them.

About Bobbie French

Bobbie French is an educational leader, presenter and writer from Massachusetts.

Bobbie has been an educator for over 24 years. She has been an elementary guidance counselor, classroom teacher, special education coordinator, Title I Director, Preschool Director and Administrator.

Bobbie is passionate about focusing on the whole child and creating an environment where all students have a sense of belonging. She appreciates and recognizes the hard work of teachers, and is committed to supporting others to be their best for kids every day. Her passion and enthusiasm for creating a positive and engaging school culture is contagious.

Bobbie is also an avid photographer and loves to tell her school’s story.