School can be nerve wrecking for some students. It’s hard to make new friends, figure out who you can trust, and try to fit in just to get through the year. One teacher found a way to break the ice so that students can learn more about themselves and each other. Her method also allowed her to gain some insight into their lives outside of school. Her activity gives students the chance to offer information about themselves in a way that isn’t intimidating. While some of them are reluctant at first, they all eventually participate.
April Mashburn of Georgia explained how it works.
“Almost every year, I have asked each of my new students to choose one of four sentences to complete as they introduced themselves to our class, and these were some of their responses. Inspired by our school’s motto, “Stronger Together,” I also tasked them with tracing their own hand, adding art that represents their story in a literal or abstract way, and contributing it to my bulletin board project. Isn’t their work fantastic?! So colorful, so unique and individual, and sometimes so heartbreaking and inspiring, all at the same time.”
She has heard some pretty crazy and strange things about her students, but instead of judging them, she encourages them to talk to her and other students about these things.
With this, they create friendships and understanding. She continued,
“These incredible stories, 95 of the – hard ones and easy ones, adventurous and local ones, painful ones and hopeful ones – are the stories they are just beginning to write on their own… I’m humbled that for the next nine months, at least, I get to play a small part in each of these beautiful stories.”
She went on to reveal some of the things her students have shared over the years and some of the ways she encourages them to share.
She gives them a few words and then they add the rest to complete a fact about them. She explained,
“High school students are a funny bunch. Icebreaker activities are a dreaded expectation for them during the first week of school each year, and while I sincerely want to hear about who they are and what makes them tick, generally speaking, 12th graders are not the most forthcoming group. With starters like these, though, it’s hard for most of them to resist.
the biggest mistake I ever made in the kitchen was…
My proudest accomplishment to date is…
Two things I’d like to check off my bucket list are…”
She also makes it fun and feels that allowing the students to be creative makes them more comfortable sharing the information.
“Throw in an elementary-school-style art project while I circle the room digging a little deeper with each student, and awkward introductions turn into a true conversation! Conversations turn into relationships and relationships turn into respect and respect develops into a learning environment in which students are heard, understood, eager, and engaged – the Holy Grail for high school classrooms.”
She is happy with the way the students embrace the project and how much she learns about them.
She hopes other teachers will use similar icebreaking methods to help their students become more comfortable with each other and with their teachers. She added,
“Teaching is endlessly more than just content. Sure, I want students in my Food for Life nutrition class to understand why protein is essential, to know how to properly cook poultry, and to learn to hold their chef’s knives correctly. But even more than that, I want to them to grow into people who do more listening than speaking. I long for them to find a passion for helping their neighbors – locally or abroad. I hope they see the commitment I give to my job and desire to find a career they love as much, even if they never get rich doing it. We learn to laugh at our mistakes together and find solutions that make sense to problems that we encounter. The content is important, absolutely, but in my classroom, the science also serves as a vehicle to help us find a deeper appreciation for the incredible “well-oiled machine” that is the human body.”
She also wants teachers and parents to know that school isn’t only about learning facts and doing book work.
It’s an experience that involves many different aspects of learning. She hopes that she is making a difference in the lives of her students. She said,
“Our students’ stories weave themselves into our own so much that their vulnerability often becomes a heavy load to bear. However, it is with great honor that good teachers do so. In 10 years, I have grown to love somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 students, and although most I will never get to see again beyond graduation, the hopes, struggles, talents, creativity, humor, and memories they shared with me have enhanced my life and inspired me to view the world with great compassion. Even when their handprints no longer hang on my wall, I am better for having learned from each of these wonderful young men and women over the years. We truly are stronger together.”
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Source: Love What Matters