Staying on the educational side of leadership this week let’s touch on the idea of encouragement, and how teachers and leaders* can enhance this characteristic.

*Again, while discussing this idea, you can at any time switch out the words teaching and leading/leadership.


One of the most useful tools a teacher can have is being an encourager. In today’s culture, many things cause students to be cast down, and it is very easy for them to be and become discouraged. They put up a “front,” not wanting anyone to recognize help is needed. They believe they are self-reliant, saying, “I can get through this,” all along knowing they need help. A majority of the time, that help can be nothing more than simple encouragement. You can tell when students are encouraged. They have a new spring in their step and a broader smile on their face.

We have all, at one time or another, needed encouragement. Why? Because we have all had experiences when someone or something failed us. It is at that time encouragement was needed most; wanting to be understood and have someone stand for and with us. None of us can know what lies ahead. For the most part, we do not know what is going  on in the lives of our students. Until we are intentional with our relationships, any words of encouragement become shallow and unfelt. Lip service is never good in leadership.

I have found the best way to encourage students, especially in the classroom, is to just acknowledge their existence in an adult, professional manner. A “hello” with their name at the door, a fist pump, or an elbow tap eases the slightest apprehension a student might have. When you make it where the student understands that you are there for help, it changes their whole thought process. What does not work is saying, “If you need some help, let me know.” Without intentionality, this sounds like a blanket statement, quickly said, so it goes on record.

We must also realize that words of encouragement do not immediately make troubles disappear. However, what words of encouragement do is acknowledge someone needs help. Encouraging words can help a person not live in a room of emptiness. Often, students feel deserted, only painting a picture of loneliness because they do not understand something or feel devalued.

As we continue to educate, make sure you are for your students, and that means, when needed, truly encouraging them. You might be the only one who does.

©2019 J Clay Norton

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