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Personal Life? Huh?

In my own experience, I have been able to apply aspects from my personal life into my lessons. I feel this adds a “human” quality that kids can relate to because they are able to see me as a real person. Some of the things I do in my personal life which I have been able to enhance lessons with include animal handling at the zoo, geocaching, and foster care. The one which has had the most influence is my work at the Erie Zoo. Animals touch almost every subject in some form, and it is difficult to do activities with classes without animals coming into play. I created a virtual field trip and started a podcast series which can serve as an introduction to the 1st grade field trip to the Erie Zoo in the Spring. Since many children’s books relate to animals, I am often able to provide little known facts that I acquired while working at the zoo. Then there is the added bonus of seeing how excited the kids get if they happen to visit while I am working.

My experience as a teacher and librarian is often reciprocated between the zoo and my school, benefiting both. I created a functional library from a room of scattered books housed in the zoo’s collection with no processing or organization. I think being a teacher makes me more comfortable working with the public there as well. I am able to relay information in ways that child patrons understand. I think I am also better able to ask things of patrons in non-threatening ways. The zoo is thankfully non-smoking. Unfortunately many smokers are not aware of this. I have seen some of the non-teacher volunteers inform a patron rather gruffly of this point. When I relay the information myself, people seem very accommodating and leave passive, if not happy, for their new knowledge.

Though not all teachers share this belief, I feel sharing my personal life with my students makes me more human in their eyes. This enables them to relate to me in ways which build mutual respect. As I have mentioned in class postings, I firmly believe that mutual respect is one of the best ways to maintain discipline. I know it sure saves a lot of yelling and stress! It is also a very commonly expected practice for students to relate their personal experiences to what they are learning. This adds validity to what we are trying to do with them and is a proven strategy for helping students understand and remember new material: relate it to what they know. I often tell my students that I will rarely ask them to do something that I am not willing to do myself. This is a courtesy I offer to them so they understand that no task is too menial to put time and effort into.

QUESTIONS FOR COMMENTS: I am interested in the views of others in regard to teachers sharing personal experiences with their classes. Do you encourage their curiosity about you as a person? Or do you believe that they are the student and you are the teacher and the two should never mix? I would also be interested in any stories you can share about how your students respond when they find out you are human.

~ by dwhiteman on . Tagged: ,

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