When I started teaching ten years ago, I was somewhat guarded with the details that I let my students know about me. I think part of that was being younger and wanting to establish a very solid distance between them and me. Not offering details was a clear way to send the message, “I am not your friend.”
So today surprised me a bit, as I drove home thinking about all the random conversations that happened in my classroom, completely unrelated to anything pedagogical.
In my Honors English class, a before-the-bell trashing of Nebraska footall turned into a 10 minute debate over whether the BCS is a cartel (it is.).
In my AP class, I told them about the horrific car accident I was in 9 years ago. It was somewhat relevant to a discussion…
In the mandatory study hall that I monitor, the BCS conversation continued, and the students guessed which team I follow (BYU) which inevitably led to the question of what religion I practice (Mormon).
I’m learning more about my students, too. Where they’ve lived, their political leanings, their favorite TV shows (oh, the humanity of Jersey Shore), their hobbies, and their dreams.
I usually know most of my students pretty well by the end of the school year, but rarely do any of my classes feel like a happy dysfunctional family this early in the school year. This isn’t a complaint–not by a long shot–but it makes me wonder if the motivation I’m seeing in my students this early in the school year is at all related to my willingness to open up, my willingness to know them.