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They're Just Little: That's Why You Aren't Their Friend

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Complete Show Notes:

I still remember the day that this photo was taken. 

My step-son, Kai, had just won the triathlon for his age group, and he was positively beaming from ear to ear.

But the reason I remember this photo so well is because I remember how I was feeling when the picture was taken.

It was the day that I remember feeling like I really was becoming a "second Mom" to this awesome little guy (who is now almost 18 years old - yikes how time flies!) and to his two older brothers.

It's complicated being a second mom (I haven't liked the name "step mom" since I was seven years old and watched Cinderella), especially because I have never had children of my own. 

It's uncommon ground - and what makes it especially tricky is that although I am a parent figure, I still want the boys to really, really like me.

And, it's because of this that being a second mom reminds me sooo much of my first years of teaching.

I still remember my first year of full-time teaching like it was yesterday.

Probably because, like parenting, there were so many intensely emotional highs and lows that year.

In all of my work with the hundreds of beginning teachers I’ve had the honor of serving, a common comment keeps coming up that I could so easily relate to when I too was a beginning teacher, too, and it’s this:

But I just really want the kids to like me.
The best part of teaching is the hugs.

Are you nodding your head?

Okay, so maybe you can relate to this.

We are all in this profession on some level, I hope, because we really do love kids.

The thing is that when we first become teachers, so often, we have not had children of our own yet. 

So, it’s pretty natural to want that close connection with kids – but here’s where many of us get ourselves into trouble.

We are afraid to discipline our students or to have clear and consistently reinforced expectations because we are afraid that by doing so, they aren’t going to like us.


At least, that was the way I thought when I first started teaching.

I didn’t want to be “that teacher” who was strict and mean and no fun to be around.

I wanted my classroom to be the most amazing place on Earth.

Forget Disneyland.

I wanted my students to feel like they were the luckiest, most special kiddos on the planet because they got to be in my classroom. 

And I felt like that vision of my classroom that I really wanted was at odds with having clear rules, and expectations, and discipline.

THAT didn’t feel like any fun to me.

More than anything, I wanted to be my students’ FAVORITE teacher of all time.

So, I thought that positioning myself as their “friend” was the best way to go.

It doesn’t matter what they taught me in university about not smiling until January (or whatever you’ve heard or may have been taught) – things are going to be different in my classroom.

That’s not my style.

I want my students to know that they can come to me with whatever problems they have.

They can talk to me about anything, because they’re going to know that I’m their friend.

Are you with me here?

Any of this feeling familiar to you, too?

But what I didn’t realize at the time was that by saying I was their friend – I was actually lying to my students.

I was actually lying.

And – I was actually not giving them what they most needed.

Now let me explain:

I have ALWAYS been a teacher, and fantastic, innovative, and creative ideas that work have always been my passion.

My specialty, and what I now know makes me different, is that I really do view everything through a child’s eyes – how they experience it.

And so for everything you learn here in this blog, I will be constantly taking you back to how a child’s experience impacts every single decision I make in my classroom.

Why? Because I think the most important thing in this world is compassion, and the moment we have more compassion and true empathy for what it means to be a child in today’s world, our entire perception of what it means to be a teacher and manage a classroom changes.

So, let’s pause for a moment and view the world through a child’s eyes:

What does it mean to be a child?

  • I have only 6, 7, or 8 years on this planet.
  • I have only been “doing school” for 1, 2, or 3 years.
  • None of that experience has been consistent. I have a new teacher with new and different expectations every year.
  • I do not understand how any of this works – especially when I come into a new classroom, and there is an entirely new way of doing things.
  • And I don’t know who you are: You are very friendly. So, are you my friend?

In a child’s world, what does it mean to be a friend?

It means these 3 things:

  1. Friends don’t tell on each other.
  2. Friends don’t place judgement on each other.
  3. Friends don’t tell you what to do.

This is what it means to be a friend in a child’s world.

And - you have positioned yourself to be their friend.

But then -  parent-teacher conferences come around, and what do you do?

  1. You tell on them - to their parents - about what they need to work on.
  2. You place judgement on them because you grade them.
  3. And, you explain what the consequences will be (a low grade, extra homework or remediation to help them to catch up) if they don’t do what you say because... you are in charge.

Why do you do all of this? Because that’s your job.

THAT’S what you’ve been hired to do.

THAT'S what you’ve been highly educated to know how to do.

But in their little minds, because you had positioned yourself as their friend,
ou have in fact just betrayed their trust.

Because the truth is that you are not their friend and letting them believe that is actually a lie.

It's not only a lie – it’s robbing them of the incredible gift of who you could be for them in the classroom.

You are not their friend.
Instead, you are God’s gift to children – you are a teacher.

And being a teacher means holding these amazing little human beings to higher standards than they are able to even envision for themselves - yet. 

Being a teacher means believing in them, challenging them, and honoring their every small effort towards big goals that they would never dare to dream for themselves without you.

And so, while you are being “friendly” and pouring love into them, you owe it them to get clear about your role.

Your role is to do for them what their friends cannot.

Your role is to establish a safe and compelling and cohesive learning environment in which to shape the future leaders of our world.

I don’t care where you teach or what the circumstances of the students in your classroom are.

You are their teacher. And that means that you have the incredible power AND responsibility to hold your students to the highest vision of themselves and of their lives possible.

And you do this by having clearly thought out rules, routines, and consistently reinforced expectations in your classroom.

BECAUSE you expect more of them. Because you know they are capable of it.

And because you know and communicate to your students on a regular basis how incredibly special and talented and smart and capable they are.

Even when they don’t yet believe that themselves.

It’s your role to inspire them to be more.

And, I know in my bones that YOU are not only capable of doing this for your students, but that you were wired for it.

How do I know this?

You're probably thinking, "You don't even know me."

I know this because out of all of the choices out there in the world for you, you chose to become a teacher. So on some level, you are already aware of what you’re actually capable of.

And that, my dear friends, is why you are not their friend, and why I am so proud to know you: because you are a teacher.

Now, just because you've chosen this profession and on some level, you truly do want to make an impact on our world to make it a better place, that doesn't mean you always know what to do. Our profession is incredibly complicated.

And I'm here to help.

If you are struggling with something in your classroom,

If you have a challenge you would like some advice about,

Or if you have a problem in your teaching or at your school that you can't talk to your team or your administration about, you can PM me on Facebook and I will do my best to respond to you within 24 hours.

Just click the pic below to join my Beginning Teacher Talk FaceBook Page, and then private message me. I promise to keep our chat confidential.

 I hope you have a wonderful week, and remember, that just because you’re a beginning teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one. 

❀️ Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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