Sticky note inspiration: What kids REALLY need


Students enter classes, learn and show their learning. But what do they REALLY need from us? It can all be summed up in a sticky note. (Photo by Matt Miller)

Think back to what got you into education in the first place.

A specific content area or a bent toward a certain age level might have helped you find your place in the education world.

But I’ll bet it didn’t get you into education all together.

  • Was it a desire to help mold the citizens of future generations?
  • Did you want to make students feel loved and appreciated?
  • Were you interested in inspiring children much like you were once inspired?

In the midst of all the minutiae of the classroom (grading papers, paperwork, meetings, email, etc.), it’s easy to lose focus on what inspired us in the first place. I love how Michael Hyatt states it in his book (with co-author Daniel Harkavy), “Living Forward”:

People lose their way when they lose their why.

In that same vein, I got a chance to conduct a fun and very interesting experiment the other day.

While speaking with educators from Rockford Public Schools in Rockford, Michigan, I encouraged them to think about the following question:

What do students really need from you?

Afterward, we wrote the answers on sticky notes and posted them in the hallway for everyone to see. I collected all the sticky notes after the event was over and looked over them.

The answers were fascinating. And inspiring. And very telling about what’s really in the hearts of educators.

(As you read these, please be thinking about what you’d write on your sticky note. You get your chance at the end!)

There were lots of single-word answers. Safety. Routine. Respect. Dedication. Passion.


The “love” pile.

The one single-word answer that showed up most, though, was love. “Genuine, unconditional love.” “Love and attention.” “A smile an a hug. LOVE.”

Another big pile of sticky notes: encouragement. Believing in them. One wrote “someone who ‘gets’ them.” Another: “to believe in them even when they don’t believe in themselves.”

Here’s a group that surprised me a little: the ones that talked about the importance of connections. “Connections to the real world.” “The opportunity to connect to something bigger than themselves.” “Genuine connections — to know we are sincerely invested in them.”

I’m an educator who is passionate about the power of using technology to connect classes to people, places and events virtually. That’s what I think of when I hear the term “connections.” I value those other connections even more, but sometimes they’re not the first ones I think about. These answers have helped me refocus.

(I said these sticky notes were inspiring, right? They’ve obviously inspired me.)

Here are a couple of my favorite longer-form sticky notes that also inspired me:


What do my students need from me? They need to know I see them as specially gifted to contribute to their future. They (1st graders) need guidance and protection from the inappropriate digital surprises. They need more digital opportunities.


Kids need to learn how to communicate socially in a world that has forgotten how to look in each other’s eyes and really listen. This will get them “the job.” Technology will always be everchanging and available. We should SLOW DOWN!


Love, encouragement, positive feedback, guidance, open-ended questions, time to problem solve


Connecting, relating, creating, transforming, moonshot thinking! Outside of the box thinking to drive their own creativity into their education for endless possibilities!

Know what was almost non-existent? Specifics about content. There were a few, but they were a very tiny minority.

Also non-existent: the importance of testing to determine progress. Lots of teachers wrote about the importance of accountability, but there we can provide accountability in a million ways other than a standardized test.

For me (and hopefully for anyone who stopped to read these sticky notes), it helped me find my why. I get excited about harnessing technology and using it to create exciting, meaningful learning experiences. My students got a lot out of that.

But it really is about the kids, though, isn’t it? What good are those activities in class if we’re not shaping a child into his true potential or into what she really wants to be?

What would you write on your own sticky note? What do students REALLY need from you (or from all of us in education)?

Let us know, maybe in one of these ways:

  • Post it in a picture or message on Twitter, Instagram, etc. with the #KidsReallyNeed hashtag. (I’ll be posting more sticky notes there.)
  • Write it in a comment on this post.
  • Create your own sticky note experiment. Encourage others in your building to post their thoughts in a teacher’s lounge or staff meeting. (If you do, PLEASE take a picture and show me … I’d love to see it!)

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Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

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What will you leave your students, family when you’re gone?

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