Connecting with our students is one of our most important jobs as teachers. When students have a bond with us, they are more engaged in everything we say, and therefore everything we try to teach. A few years ago I wrote this post about using your own life as the script when teaching writing. By telling your own life stories to students they are immediately sucked in, because WE the teachers (and more specifically our personal lives) are infinitely interesting to them.
This year I had a wonderful group of Grade 3/4 students, and I had the privilege of working closely with one of my best teaching friends. While we were not team teaching by definition, we did a lot of work with our classes together and team taught regularly. Our students learned that we were not only colleagues, but also friends. They found it incredibly fascinating that we actually hung out together on the weekends and saw one another socially! The concept of two of their teachers being “real” friends was amazing to them. We then took this whole idea to another level when we went away together over the school holidays, taking an absolutely marvelous trip to Borneo. Once again our students were fascinated that we would be traveling together, asking us many questions about our plans. And after our trip we gathered all of them together and (perhaps self indulgently) played a slide show of photos for them and told them all about our adventures.
Now of course it is a bit special to feel like a celebrity, as this definitely did for us. But the real reason this sort of sharing was so important is that our students saw two people that they know and care about acting on their dreams and traveling the world. My friend explained how she had wanted to see the orangutans in Borneo since she was their age, and they heard us both explain the challenges and pride of climbing Mt. Kinabalu (She made it to the summit; I did not.) By letting them into our lives they got to see firsthand what we hope they do when they get older – pick a dream and reach for it; pick a destination and go to see it. In fact, one of my friend’s students wrote that making that same mountain climb is now a goal of hers!
Every teacher knows that when you travel, your students always come along with you in spirit, and of course we brought back a few souvenirs for them as well.
This is not the first time my travels have come up with my students. One day, not long after my grandmother passed away, I wore her charm bracelet to school. She had collected a charm from each place she visited, and I had inherited one of her bracelets. Since then my mother made her own charm bracelet, I have several of my own, and my daughter has begun to collect travel charms as well. The conversations I have had with my students about these charms (though not on my lesson plans and not allocated for in my scheduling) were priceless. They were eager to ask about things I had seen, and they LOVED hearing about the competition between my husband and me over the number of countries we have visited. Kids had favorites out of my charms, some of them had been to some of the same places, and many of them developed a desire to visit those same places as a result of our chats.
Sometimes taking some time to share our own lives with our students is worth its weight in gold. Talking about my travels with my class definitely built bonds and inspired curiosity.
Do you share bits of your life with your kids at school? What do you love about it?