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The Wisdom of Youth

Despite all my efforts to the contrary, it appears I continue to grow up.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often find ourselves caught up in the complexities and challenges that come with adulthood. (I recently bought a house, so that's an understatement.)

However, if we take a moment to observe the world through the eyes of children, we uncover valuable lessons that enhance our lives. Kids possess a natural curiosity, resilience, and authenticity that we, as adults, could learn a great deal from.

Earlier this fall, we did a student survey for a school district. Nearly all our student surveys end with the question, "Pretend a new student just moved here. What advice would you give them to help them do well?"

As you can imagine, that produced a substantial amount of qualitative data. Often, schools will ask us to produce a comment theme analysis report. When we make these, we read through every comment several times and essentially summarize what we learned into themes.

The sage wisdom from these kids is presented below.


Be Yourself: This advice encourages new students to be genuine and authentic. It implies that trying to conform to others’ expectations or pretending to be someone you’re not can lead to unhappiness and difficulty in forming real and meaningful relationships. Being oneself is seen as a way to attract friends who appreciate you for who you truly are.

Be Friendly and Inclusive: The suggestion to be friendly and inclusive is about building positive social connections. It implies that by being open to making friends with everyone, you can create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. This can help new students feel comfortable and reduce social anxiety.

Don’t Judge Others: This advice is about promoting kindness and empathy. It emphasizes that making assumptions or judgments about others, especially based on appearance or abilities, is unfair and can hinder the formation of meaningful connections.

Stay Academically Focused: The emphasis on academic focus highlights the importance of performing well in school. This includes paying attention in class, completing homework, and seeking help when needed. It suggests that a strong academic foundation is key to a successful school experience.

Bullying and Conflict Resolution: Addressing bullying and conflict resolution is about creating a safe and respectful school environment. It encourages new students to be proactive in dealing with bullying and not suffering in silence. Open communication and seeking help from trusted adults are vital strategies.

Making Friends: The advice to make friends encourages new students to be proactive in building relationships. It suggests that in this school, making friends is achievable and that being social and open to others is a path to a positive and enjoyable school experience.

Navigating the School Environment: Practical advice, like explaining the school’s class structure and encouraging participation in after-school activities, helps new students navigate their academic and social journey. This advice aims to make the transition smoother and the experience more enjoyable.

Don’t Be Afraid: Encouragement to not be afraid and not worry aims to boost new students’ confidence. It implies that confidence is crucial, and fear or anxiety can hinder one’s ability to form connections and enjoy the school experience. Encouragement to try new things and get involved in school activities is about embracing change and personal growth. It implies that a willingness to explore new experiences can lead to a more enriching school experience.

Help Others and Seek Help: Encouraging students to help others and seek help when needed fosters a sense of community and support. It suggests that both giving and receiving assistance are essential for a successful school experience.

Avoid Negative Peers: This advice is about steering clear of toxic relationships that can be emotionally draining. It encourages new students to focus on building positive and supportive friendships.


How amazing are these? If you're curious what advice your students have for each other (and us as adults!), we have a wide variety of student surveys that we can help you deploy.


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Rob DeMeuse, Research Director (and very much a child at heart).


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