Thoughtful and caring learner-teachers, open and eager to know, be known, and respect self and others

On the first day of student teaching, I consciously thought about the habit of mind of being open and eager to get to know my students.  Therefore, my students and I played a game to get to know each other.  For every fact they gave about themselves, I gave one about me.  Some of my facts were things such as “I have two sisters,” “I play tennis,” and other trivial pieces of information.  Although I thought that I was being open to being known, those facts did not tell my students much about me as a person or as a teacher.  And, getting the same kind of information from my students did not tell me much about them.  Sure, the game helped to break the ice but it did not fulfill the goal I had in mind. I was not aware of the lack of effectiveness of the game until the end of the semester.  I thought that students truly knew me after being in the classroom for just a few days or weeks, but that was simply not true.

I may have thought that the information I shared on my first day of student teaching made me vulnerable, but I did not realize what sharing vulnerable information really felt like until I was nearly done with my student teaching.  I was desperate to get my students to connect with Transcendentalism because it was the last unit I was able to teach to them and a philosophy that has had a large influence on my life.  I fought with myself over sharing personal information about Henry David Thoreau, an author who has helped me through some difficult personal growth.  But, my students convinced me with their attentiveness and warmth that I would be heard and understood.  So, I shared that American literature has greatly affected my life because I take “Thoreau walks” once a week to remind myself to be spontaneous and “live deliberately” as Thoreau would have wanted.  That information tells students a lot more about who I am as a person and as a teacher.  After sharing my story, students were in awe.  I thought I would get responses from my students calling me a dork or nerd, but the first thing I heard was “Miss Stamm, that is so cool!” I will never forget the satisfaction I felt after really being open and honest with my students.  Sharing my story with students helped us form a connection and the lesson on Walden was one of the best I have ever taught.  Furthermore, those same students gave me a Thoreau t-shirt as a going away present on my last day of student teaching.  Not only is the shirt evidence that my students are generous, but that they appreciate my honesty and that I shared part of myself with them.  

Next year, when I hopefully have a classroom of my own, I will be sure to play some similar games to break the ice. But I will now know that memorizing what sports my students play does not constitute truly knowing them.  Nor will I expect my students to know me after one day of information about my hobbies.  I now have a different and deeper sense of what being vulnerable means and I will make sure to push myself to be vulnerable in a classroom earlier in the time I have with my students.  I will make sure that even when I think I am being open and honest with my students, I truly am and not just sharing the shell of my person but making a deep connection with my students.


Two students and me wearing my new Thoreau shirt

Two students and me wearing my new Thoreau shirt

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