What do my children remember?

From some of the posts on this blog (examples: one, two, three and four), it is evident that I have vivid and fond memories of my years in Pune. This led me to wonder: what are the lasting memories that my children have about me and our time together - both inside and outside the classroom?

To answer this question, I carried out a single-question survey, coded my children's responses and came up with some interesting findings.

What did I ask?

Below, in italics, are the exact words that I wrote in a personal message to each child. The text in purple varied depending on the child.

= = = = =

Hi <student name>,

I am doing a little survey/research. Can you please answer the following question?

What are your 3 most clear memories about <5th, 8th or 9th> standard related to me, our classes together or any other interactions that we had?

Please answer honestly.

= = = = =

I restricted it to three per child so as to gather memories that really stood out in their minds.

Who did I ask?

I reached out to 44 children:
  • 16 of my 5th grade children (who are 11th grade students now) from my first school
  • 11 of my 8th grade children (who are first year undergraduate students now) from my second school
  • 17 of my 9th grade children (who are second year undergraduate students now) from my second school
These children are ones who I have kept in touch with and met during school and home visits over the past 5-6 years.

How many memories?

I received a total of 149 memories. Some children shared more than 3 memories so the average number of memories per child lies between 3 and 4.

How did I code these memories?

I assigned 3 tags to each memory:
  1. Feeling associated with the memory from the child's point of view - (i) Positive; (ii) Neutral; (iii) Negative
  2. Context - (i) Academic; (ii) Extracurricular; (iii) General
  3. Type - (i) Specific event/interaction; (ii) Multiple events/interactions; (iii) Observation
The purpose of tagging the memories was to quantitatively analyse a qualitative data set. Here are some examples - the italicised text in green are the exact responses that I received:
  • "I remember the extra classes you took and the story that we read (Fantastic Mr. Fox). I started learning English properly in those classes." (positive academic memory involving multiple events/interactions)
  • "Cancellation of P.T. periods when we used to behave badly." (negative general memory involving multiple events/interactions)
  • "You would give me puzzle sheets to solve even though I was not a member of the Puzzle Club. That was very fun." (positive extracurricular memory involving an observation)
  • "Even though I bunked a lot of classes, you were patient with me and never got angry. You tried to make me see why I should attend school." (neutral general memory involving an observation)
  • "How much you like paneer and poha!" (positive general memory involving an observation)



I used the tag 'general' when the memory couldn't be conclusively classified as either academic or extracurricular. 49% of the memories shared by my 9th grade children were from the general context. The corresponding numbers were 34% and 38% for my 5th and 8th grade children respectively.

I put this down to the maturity level and nature of interactions that I had with the three sets of children. My 9th graders seemed to recall deeper memories/observations from our times outside the academic and extracurricular realms. Take a look at the examples of general memories shared by some of my 9th grade children:
  • "I feel you are very honest with your work and have a down to earth nature. You never judge people which makes you different from others." (positive memory involving an observation)
  • "One of the best memories is whenever you would visit my house. I enjoyed those visits." (positive memory involving an observation)
  • "I once asked you how would I know when I am satisfied with my work. You answered that that time will never come because you will always feel that you could have done more. This helps you keep trying and doing more." (positive memory involving a specific event/interaction)
  • "When I was going through difficult times, you were always there to console me and give me solutions.(positive memory involving an observation)
  • "Your simplicity, the way you talk to us and your approach to what is important in life.(positive memory involving an observation)
  • "I liked how friendly you were outside class. You left class things inside class and were chilled outside it.(positive memory involving an observation)
~ o ~ x ~ o ~


45% of the memories shared by my 8th grade children were from the academic context. The corresponding numbers were 30% and 33% for my 5th and 9th grade children respectively.

The English classes that I took with my 8th graders were ones that both the children and I thoroughly looked forward to. There was a high level of energy and we treasured those moments that we spent together reading stories, deciphering poems, enacting plays and learning grammar. I believe that this is the reason for the comparatively higher percentage of academic memories. Some examples:
  • "Reading the story of Anne Frank and wondering what would happen next in the story." (positive memory involving a specific event/interaction)
  • "The beginning of English class started with a word of the day. We got to present it to the class and this boosted my confidence plus we got good at vocabulary and how to use words in sentences." (positive memory involving multiple events/interactions)
  • "Ice cream sticks that you used for reading and calling out our names randomly.(neutral memory involving an observation)
  • "I enjoyed our English classes - interesting stories and we understood each other better.(positive memory involving an observation)
  • "Our English classes - very well-planned and the way you used to teach was different from everyone else.(positive memory involving an observation)
  • "The last English class - you gave us a class photo and wrote a message for all of us. That was so nice of you as no one did that for us at that time…." (positive memory involving a specific event/interaction)
~ o ~ x ~ o ~


49% of the memories shared by my 5th grade children were specific events/interactions. This number fell to 38% and 25% for my 8th and 9th grade children respectively.

Going deeper into these memories for 5th grade, I found that 65% of the 49% were from the extracurricular context - field trips, class projects beyond academics and sports. In fact, 36% of all the memories shared by my 5th grade children were from the extracurricular context (compared to 17% and 18% for my 8th and 9th grade children respectively). These findings didn't surprise me because the circumstances at the two schools were such that I was able carry out more extracurricular activities with my 5th grade children. Essentially, my 5th grade children had a wider set of options from which to recall specific events/interactions and specific events like field/class trips, sports and projects tend to be memorable ones.

Some examples of memories that were specific events/interactions:
  • "I remember the visit to the Science Park where we learned about the working of different things. And the seesaw which shows our weight on the moon and Mars." (positive extracurricular memory)
  • "The play that we performed - learned the importance of unity, making mistakes, continuously improving etc." (positive extracurricular memory)
  • "The story called "Hiss Don't Bite" that taught me the importance of control and also improved my English." (positive academic memory)
  • "You once commented on my hairstyle and said it looks like a peacock!" (positive general memory)
  • "Getting full marks on a difficult math drill one time!" (positive academic memory)
  • "When you taught me a new word ('notches') for a speech - till then, I had thought of you as a math teacher and didn't think that you could be good at English too!" (positive extracurricular memory)
~ o ~ x ~ o ~


The percentage of positive memories was 74%, 77% and 73% for my 5th, 8th and 9th grade children respectively.

The corresponding numbers for neutral memories was 19%10% and 20% and for negative memories was 7%13% and 7%.

The optimistic way of interpreting these results is to conclude that my children, by and large, remember positive/happy memories of their time with me. This would align with the fact that I tried to be the best teacher that I could be and interacted with my students in ways that showed that I cared for them. 😀

The cautious way of interpreting these results is that the sample size could be a biased one as it represents students who I have kept in touch with (and who wanted to keep in touch with me too! 😅). Hence, it is natural that their memories will be primarily positive.

Since most of memories that I have shared in the post have been positive, here are some examples of neutral and negative memories:
  • "Missing out on the Cycling Club because I submitted my application after the deadline." (negative extracurricular memory involving a specific event/interaction)
  • "Daily math drills." (neutral academic memory involving multiple events/interactions)
  • "The one time you asked me to guess my marks on a test - I was nervous and worried as I wasn't fully prepared for the exam!" (negative academic memory involving a specific event/interaction)
  • "I was poor in geometry and didn't like studying it or sitting in class. I was scared of asking you doubts because I felt you would ask me more questions or make me practice more.(negative academic memory involving an observation)
  • "We were trying to copy once and you caught us and were angry." (negative academic memory involving a specific event/interaction)
  • "In P.T. class, we used to play 'Dog and the Bone'." (neutral extracurricular memory involving multiple events/interactions)

Limitations of this research

First, the fact that I (and not an independent third party) was asking the question could have influenced the responses. Perhaps, some of them didn't want to hurt my feelings so they shared only positive memories? Or, the memories that came to their mind were triggered by the fact that I was asking the question? Maybe, the memories would have been different if an impartial person had asked it?

Related to the first point, another factor at play could be the nature of the student-teacher relationship. I am confident that most of my children looked up to me and saw me as someone they could trust. Consequently, this could lead to them dismissing (or suppressing/not sharing) negative memories and recalling/sharing only the positive ones.

Third, the grey areas between positive-neutral and neutral-negative may have affected the feeling tag associated with the memories. While I did ask my students follow-up questions in case it wasn't clear, there is room for doubt and error here.

Fourth, the survey did not explicitly ask the children why they remembered those particular memories. I believe that follow-up questions and conversations could have added more nuance to this analysis.


This exercise was a trip down memory lane for me! 😃 I was surprised how children recalled events and interactions that I had frankly forgotten. The level of detail in their responses, including the feelings that they associated with the memories, was both heart-warming and overwhelming.

I realised that, some events/interactions which weren't particularly noteworthy in my mind, had an impact on my children. I might have said something or acted in a manner that was 'normal' for me; however, those words or actions left an indelible mark on their minds. At some level, this was also scary as I might have said or done something that inadvertently hurt them - I'll never really know! 😟

The data reinforced the point that academics is just one facet of the student-teacher relationship - only 35% of all the memories were academic. The relationship has many rich dimensions and is one that is strengthened and given vibrancy through extracurricular activities and projects, lunch breaks, class trips, games periods, informal conversations laced with laughter, home visits and countless other shared experiences.

To end with a quote from Maya Angelou that I came across during the fellowship:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.


  1. Oh!! Firstly, hats off to you for being so so self reflective.. Secondly, yes, you are the best teacher I've ever had!!!
    All the best for whatever you do!!!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Rupali - I think you are quite a 'self reflective' person yourself so it feels good to have you point that out about this post. :-)

      Regarding your second comment - what flattery! :P

  2. This is so cool. Such a fun exercise, it seems and what a way to remember the times gone by

    1. Oh, yes! Like I wrote towards the end, this was quite a trip down memory lane for me! :-)

  3. When we all meet or gather in future we will recall lots of memories. Thanks for this survey, which also denotes that you have been a cause of at least a small positive change in every child you taught.

    1. This is a really deep and sincere comment, Abhay - thanks so much! It definitely warmed my heart when I read it.

      Like I wrote, I hope the changes/impact that I had on my children are mainly positive but there are possible biases in this study that I have pointed out. However, I know that you and I have a great rapport so I can confidently say that I've left you with far more positive memories than negative ones! :-)

  4. As I read the blog it allowed me as a student to also reflect on relationship I shared with my teachers and the memories I recall of them in school.

    I believe the blog does a good job with elaborating the memories by putting them into different domains with the percentages allowing the audience to explore a different approach to look at the classroom experience.

    1. Thanks for the comment - I really appreciate you mentioning 'relationships' as that was something that stood out to me as well when I read through the memories my children sent me. I realised how all those memories come together to create a bond and relationship that will always be strong.

      Tagging these memories helped me group and understand them better; without this tagging, writing this piece would have been impossible as I wouldn't have gathered any shareable findings.

  5. I'm very proud of being a student of yours. :-)

    In school, I knew what my dreams were and was quite good at academics too. After you and other fellows taught me, I realised that the journey is way more important. The learnings we create are actually what makes us people. Thank you so much for all of this!

    Sending you proud pats on your back and warm wishes too! :-)

    1. This brought a big smile to my face! :D

  6. Such a well analysed and beautifully reflective piece!

    I loved that you're included direct quotes. I was looking for my quote while I was also able to relate to others.

    It's great that you included the constraints as well. it made me look at the other hidden side of the study that could have significantly influenced your findings. I had a lovely time reading it and THANK YOU for including me in the survey!! :-)

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Yes, including direct quotes was important so that the piece is authentic and my readers can get a flavour/sense of the actual memories that my children wrote about. :-)

      Constraints and limitations are there in every study and it is a good practice to acknowledge and describe them. It also provides ideas for paths that future research (if undertaken) can/should keep in mind.

  7. HA!

    I was thinking of the Maya Angelou quote the whole time and then you went and ended with it!

    Love how you've highlighted how so many of the memories are non academic. I imagine similar to you, students of mine over the years have a number of positive, neutral and negative memories of classes with me. While it is nice to think of things that impacted them positively it's also sad to know that there might be small things we said or did that left them feeling heavier than we would know.

    Thanks for this, Shreyas.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      On balance, I believe that any sincere teacher who cares about his/her students is likely to have said/done far more things that positively impact students - that is reassuring in a way! :-)

      Also, I've experienced how forgiving and understanding children can be when they know you've made a mistake that you are genuinely sorry about. In those instances, the hurt/pain we may have caused is, hopefully, temporary.

  8. I was surprised to see how you created a model out of feedback and words, probably the best use of skills you have as an English and Math teacher! The messages were heartfelt and the analysis was on point! (You complimented someone's hairstyle and told them they looked like a peacock!)

    I also wondered if we can conclude/draw any results around the kind of feedback given and the relationship with the grade. For example, if 5th graders remembered specific observations, was it because 10-year-olds learn by text-to-self/world connection? Or if 9th graders remembered academic stuff, was it because they were getting serious about career paths, streams to choose etc.?

    In a nutshell, how about we see what is the type of observation and draw comparisons with the child's social-emotional needs and the kind of learning they look forward to.

    Thank you for publishing this!

    1. Well... I think any kind of qualitative research involves a blend of language and math, no? :-) Not sure if the post uses my skills as an English and math teacher as much as it uses my interest in writing and analysing!

      Regarding the second paragraph of your comment - I might be able to do this if I address the fourth limitation of this study that I wrote about in the post viz. "the survey did not explicitly ask the children why they remembered those particular memories". However, it is possibly a stretch to be able to draw conclusions like text-to-self/word connections with such a small sample + the fact that all these memories were lived experiences of the children - regardless of grade.

      Furthermore, I am not confident of being able to connect what a child remembers with his/her socio-emotional needs - what are his/her needs? Which point of time should I consider to evaluate these socio-emotional needs? How do I evaluate these needs? I feel there are too many variables and unknowns at play here... :-|

      What do you think?

  9. I love this article - so so different from your previous ones but yet so powerful!

    I'm sure it must have been a walk down memory lane for you when you got all the responses. I really liked how you categorized the responses so that you could know what your net impact was. I also liked how you pointed out on this being biased as it is from students you've kept in touch with so there's a chance that they are fond of you. That really stood out for me as you are aware of that too! :-)

    Great article and looking forward to your next one!

    1. Thank you! :-)

      One point - I don't think the purpose of the post was to know/gauge my 'net impact'. I feel that that is something I will never know and I'm comfortable with that.

      The post was more about getting a sense of what my children remember about our times together. As other readers have suggested, I may do a follow up post of "why" they remember what it is that they remember! :-)

  10. Dear Shreyas Bhaiya,

    No bhaiya I don't agree with you that you are the best teacher. For me you are the greatest teacher out there. We only had one year with you and also its been over 5 years that you left teaching us. Honestly speaking, I have lost touched with almost everyone except you. I have asked this question to myself several times that though we are far away but how are we still in contact? Why do I still reach out to you whenever I am in some trouble? All I could decipher is thats because you are Shreyas Bhaiya, because you still talk sarcastically with the way you did in 8th grade. You still call me Anjali Didi's 'Chamcha'. Yes you still correct my grammar even in whatsapp text(Hope you won't find any grammatical errors here XDD). Whenever you visit my home you still give me that funny angry look. Though we have grown up however our bond remains the same. Reading this was a trip down to the memory lane.

    Thank you


  11. This is very nice, Shreyas. As I was reading it, I was reminded by the exact quote you ended with :)
    I think sometimes we forget how small things we say or do can have such a large impact (both positive and negative) on people.

  12. This is such a great idea. I should really do it with my kids.

    The responses are so interesting. most of them are around how you made them feel, whether it was the home visit you made or how patiently you interacted with them.

    I feel we train teachers so little on these nuances of working with children. A lot of focus is still on academics.

    Please do a second article on this, if you can. With a drill down on why some of these things really stayed with them as opposed to others.


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