Friday, March 16, 2012

Tip #3: Make time to see your students

One of the most simple, yet profound insights I’ve ever heard regarding teaching was that students want to be seen.  Despite being a bit of a loner myself, this made so much sense because the people I most value in my life are those that do just that.  They see me.  They look for the best and don’t turn away when they see the worst.  Instead, when I fail, they stick with me and help me—challenge me—to do better.  And isn’t that what our students want from us? 

Last year I attended a workshop with Jeffrey Wilhelm, who has written extensively about literacy, including how to engage the disengaged.  He shared a story about a young boy who would not do a bit of work in the classroom.  During an interview, he told Mr. Wilhelm that if the teacher ever showed a bit of interest in the things that were important to him, that he would return the favor. 

Getting to know our students can be time consuming, and perhaps this blog post is ill timed so late in the school year.  Nonetheless, I feel it is so important, that I decided to write it anyway.  Maybe it will serve as a welcome reminder to some teacher out there what is really important.  Take time to enjoy your students.  If this blog entry doesn’t speak to you right now, tuck it away until August when you are planning for 2012-2013 because what follows are suggested activities to help you see your students better….

1. Have your students create resumes.  This is especially insightful and useful to high school students.  I have found that some of my students do not see themselves as having many skills or achievements, and brainstorming ideas can serve as a good self esteem booster. Check out some models.

2. Ice breakers are always handy.  One that I’ve used in my class is a game called Two Truths and a Lie.  Students write down two truths about themselves that nobody else in the class knows about them.  (For example, “I am allergic to salmon” and “I once had a pet squirrel.”)  They write down a third statement that is a lie.  Then they go around the room sharing their three statements and their classmates have to try and guess which one is the lie.  One that my brother has used is to take a blow up beach ball.  He writes a different question in each section.  Then his students throw it around the room.  Each time a person catches the ball he or she looks at the question right in front of him or her and answers it before passing it on to someone else.  Check out this list of 40 interesting ice breakers.

3. Use opinionnaires to introduce a new topic.  Make ten controversial statements and have students write down if they agree or disagree with each one as you read them off.  Then have the class report their responses.  You can even extend the activity by having students create charts and graphs of the class’s sentiment surrounding the issues at hand. 

4.  Have students write about themselves.  Journaling is fairly common, I know.  But creative writing projects also open doors for you to get to know your students better.  When I complete a poetry unit I have students write a Where I’m From poem.  Check out the template.

I realize now that I could write on this topic for hours, but my students need me to be awake and alert in order for me to see them.  So, I’ll content myself with merely setting the ball rolling and let your creativity fill in the gaps.  Good night.


  1. Nice post! You are SO right about face time. Thanks for taking the time to blog about this important issue.

  2. I love journals because it's an easy way to get to know students on a personal level. Something as simple as writing about their weekend can give a teacher a talking point such as "How was your soccer game on Saturday?" Those personal connections make all the difference in the world.

    Thanks for joining my Teaching Tips Linky Party. I made a Pinterest Board called Teaching Tips and added your tips. You can check it out here:


    1. Thanks for your input. I agree. Journals are simple, yet very effective ways to learn more about your students.


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