Your MOST important :20 minutes of teaching that no one talks about

In 3 weeks, I will begin my 21st year teaching.  About a week into this school year, I will teach my “self-lesson” for easily over the 100th time.  I teach semester classes, so I get to teach this about 10 times a year.  When I first began teaching, this lesson was effective and important.  As the years have gone on, this lesson has become even more meaningful and pertinent.  This current generation of students feels a real need to know us as educators.  The term used is authentic self or as I like to refer to it as “Professional Transparency.”  I think it will be some of the most important :20 minutes of teaching you will have the entire school year.  No, it doesn’t fit into your state curriculum.  It’s not in the “Standards” or the “Frameworks”, however if you are in any way trying to make great connections with students (what teacher worth their salt isn’t?), I think it is a MUST in your year.

The Self-Lesson

Go find some pictures, memorabilia, stuffed animals, athletic equipment, whatever, that best represent you and what you are all about.  Tell your ‘life story’… I was born in… I grew up in… I graduated from high school in… I went to college at… I have been teaching here for…When I’m not in school or teaching I like to… this summer I… The reason I love teaching is… One of the funniest things that has ever happened to me teaching was… I was (fill in the blank) type of student in school… You can be and get as creative as you want, while also maintaining a level of professionalism.  Obviously be aware of your TMI (too much information) factor.  PLEASE add humor… for example, I grew up the youngest of ten kids.  I have a picture from when I was in Kindergarten and was asked to draw our family.  Everyone else had a dog, one sibling, etc.  Look at mine!  Hilarious.  Kids love it.  Have the picture of yourself in the grade you are teaching.  It gives some humanity to who you are as a person and as a teacher.

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Our family of 12!

The Format

  • I would suggest using real objects (your running shoes, your high school diploma, your appropriate pictures from college), but would also suggest taking pictures of them and projecting them behind you.  That is what I have done and it helps from a visual stand point to be able to see everything better.
  • I would suggest using a max of :15 minutes for presentation time and then :5 minutes for questions (see below)
  • I would definitely be sure that the total :20 minutes is done against an immovable object.  (an immovable object is like the end of the period, kids are going to lunch, etc.)  Just do it at a time where it can’t linger, because kids will let it linger if you let them and then you really get off track for your day.
  • I would present from the front of the room, but walk objects around the room and let kids be able to see them

The Questions

Tell students that they have :5 minutes to ask ANY question they want.  Tell them that if you think the question is inappropriate or you don’t want to answer it, you will simply say “pass” and move on the next question.

  • Let students ask ANY QUESTION they want.  That’s right, Anything…  I teach high school kids, so I have had questions like “Did you smoke pot in high school?” and “What was your favorite drink in high school?”… ME: “Pass”
  • Be aware of what kids are asking what questions.  This lesson is not just about the kids getting to know you, but it’s secretly a way of your getting to know your kids.  What a particular kid asks for a question can definitely tell you a lot about where that kid is in their life and/or what is important to her/him.

The Wrap up

Let kids know that you appreciate them taking the time to listen to you and that if they have any questions they didn’t feel comfortable asking in the large group, they can ask you one on one or email to you.  That way, you can still get kid’s questions answered and they can know more about your without having to do it in front of the whole group.

Final Thoughts

This fun, creative and professionally authentic introduction to your kids will be some of the best time you will spend with them this school year.  I also have seen this… kids that don’t ask questions in September, will come up to you at another point in the year and ask how your dog is or what position you played in soccer.  Kids are processing you as a person all time.  Give them the important information to know you better so you can improve the learning environment for them and yourself for the entire year.

 

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