At the core of any good classroom is a supportive, trusting relationship between student and teacher. In my early career days, I knew it was important to get to know my students, but I didn’t prioritize this foundational aspect to the degree I now do. Why? My students are children first. They are little human beings who have passions, dreams, fears, anxieties, silly moments, sad times, crazy adventures…
A neat activity my colleague did brought me much insight into my own kiddos. This activity was easy, quick, but insightful. She simply asked the students to write down 3 things that are important about them. Then, she asked them to write down how they learn best as a student. With some prompting and scaffolding, students understood what it meant by how they learn best.
The results were insightful, funny, “typical middle school”, heartfelt, sometimes sad, but above all reflective of the fact that these students are children first and foremost. One student listed his 6 other siblings in order (he is the 2nd). Another made sure we knew her sister was in our school (of course we knew, but she is proud of it). One boy cared to share his little sister is a premie. Family remained a central theme.
Other students shared their love of drawing, reading, playing video games, or being in sports. One little girl shared her love of 1. Art, 2. Nature, 3. Nature & Art. Some wanted us to know qualities about them, like they are helpful, shy, talkative, or dislike photos being taken of them. These nuggets of information helped establish that each student is a child first, a person, a little human being.
What was so telling was the way these students were able to share about their needs as learners. Students wrote about needing fidgets because they get antsy or have ADHD. Many shared their preference for learning: reading, listening, hands-on. Some advocated to sit in the front so they can focus; others wanted us to know they prefer working alone or in groups.
Students know themselves as learners. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They were brave enough to share with my colleague, who gratefully shared with me. These little notecards are the introduction to these kiddos. Time to learn the rest of the story and write the next chapter together.