I Love You; I Am Proud of You

By Tom Stoner, IPLI Mentor, East Porter County School Corporation

The Two Most Underused Phrases in Education

I love you, and I am proud of you are two of the most important and underused phrases in education. There are many reasons for the absence of such important phrases in the life of our students; however, I am not sure any of them are worth the loss of the positive impact these phrases create. In this entry, I will not discuss why we do not use these phrases more, but the benefits of using them more.

The first phrase is, I love you. I vowed this year to use this statement with our students more. I have told more students I love you this year than ever. I have even told them we love you at the end of the day on the afternoon announcements. Two students come to mind right away when I think of this phrase. One is an 18-year-old senior that was struggling with how to give his mom some news she was not going to want to hear. I stood and talked with this student for quite a while as he cried because he did not want to tell his mom but knew he needed to. When we were finally done talking through it, I told him I wanted him to keep me posted on how it went. He promised me he would, and I asked him, “You know I love you, right?” He responded with a “yes,” a hug, and more tears.

The second student is a sophomore we discovered was cutting last year. I saw her during the school day a couple of months ago and asked her how she was doing. She responded with, “Meh.” I asked if we needed to talk, and she said, later. I asked her to come to me during Student Resource Time at the end of the day and then proceeded to forget I asked her to come in. When she came in, I was in a meeting with our elementary principal. I put that on hold for a few minutes to check in with our student. We had a great discussion and talked about options for cutting. When she left, I asked her, “You know I love you, right?” She replied, “I love you too!” and exited my office. These are just two examples I could use from this year alone.

The second phrase, I am proud of you is just as important as I love you. It is easier to say as it does not involve the emotion implied by the word love, and yet we still do not use it enough. We have a student this year that needed to get the job done in class. He chronically missed work, slept in class, and was argumentative with the teachers. He was on the verge of being suspended for his behavior. We put him on a behavior plan where he would check in with me at the start and end of each day. He also gave his teachers a piece of paper to have them rank his behavior in class for that day. As his daily scores remained high, I started telling him how proud I was of him. The smile he would get on his face was so heartwarming. I am not sure anyone told him they were proud of him. He continues to check in and out with me daily, even though he is no longer on the behavior plan. I continue to reward his behavior by allowing him to play basketball with a couple of our kids from the basketball team, and of course, I continue to tell him how proud I am of him.

How much better would our days be if we focused on telling our students we love and are proud of them? I know some are hard to love and be proud of, but aren’t they the ones who need it the most? My year this year has shown me how important it is to use these two phrases, not occasionally, but every day. Our students deserve it. The connections matter.