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How Do You Want Your Students to Feel?


For years, the focus of education has been on the behavior, and "misbehavior", of students. I would like to propose a radical change in approaches. This change is based on the concept that "Feelings predict behavior." In other words, if the underlynig feelings are positive, the behavior will take care of itself.

An essential first question then is, "How do we want our students to feel?"

In the past, almost no attention was given to this question. The feelings of students were ignored. If any thought was given at all to the student's feelings is was a conscious desire that he or she feel afraid.

Afraid of punishment. Afraid of failure. Afraid of not graduating. Afraid of not getting a job.

These fears were supposed to motivate the student, and often they did, and still do. But it is well known that fear is not the best motivator.

If you are a teacher, think for a moment about how you really want your students to feel. Do you really want them to feel afraid of you? Most teachers I have talked to say "no."

In some cases, the reality, of course, is that fear is the only means of control over certain students. I realize this, but won't we usually get much better results, with less effort, by focusing on creating positive feelings? Fear would be the last resort, not the first, second or third.

Consider also the irrationality of trying to control behavior without addressing the underlying feelings. Think of trying to get a student to eat when they are not feeling hungry or to sleep when they are not feeling tired.

I have actually witnessed a pre-school teacher trying to get a child to sleep when he was not feeling the least bit tired. It was a huge and exhausting battle for her. In the end, he never did go to sleep. On top of that, besides frustrating her, her efforts only served to disrupt the sleep of most of the other children!

Here are some suggestions on how you might want your students to feel...


Cared about







Approved of


(by positive feelings - not fear)



Safe - Unafraid

Trusting, Trusted

Believed In



By the way, you have probably heard this old maxim, but it is worth repeating:

They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.


For more feelings, see list of human emotional needs and the top 10 emotional needs of children.

Read also this article about caring by a substitute teacher

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