What I Owe My Students

This year, in my Algebra II classes, I used a chunk of classtime to set some norms and to get some vulnerability together. I honestly felt like it brought us closer together, and I’m so grateful I did it. I hope to write a longer post about that soon, but I wanted to share the very last part of what I did.

I asked my students for three things of what I owed to them. I loved what they came up with. These kids are already so awesome. And these are all things I know I can work hard on giving them.



I see a lot of commonalities in what they wrote.

Understanding that math doesn’t always come easily to my students. Patience and kindness. Making mistakes and being lost and confused something that is okay and not something to be shamed. Recognizing that math is just one part of students lives. Promising to help students. Clarity. Fairness. Engagement. Encouragement.

I am getting these made into posters which I am going to hang up in the back of my classroom, where I can see them each day… reminders of what my responsibilities are, and seeing where I might be falling short.



  1. This is really inspiring to see. I am currently in a secondary teacher education program, and we have been talking a lot in our classes about setting norms at the beginning of the year, but it is always regarding what we expect from students, not what students should expect from us. Only setting norms for the students reinforces a power dynamic that is common in classrooms: teachers determine the behavior of students, but can do whatever they want themselves. Indicating to your students that you not only value and respect their needs, but are willing to change your actions to meet these needs, is really important to build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with them. Having these norms made as posters to display in the classroom is also a great idea because it holds you, the teacher, accountable for what you promised your students you’d do. Thanks for this, I look forward to trying it out in my own classroom.

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