Ever wonder why people are the way they are?
The first assignment I give my students each year is “Help Me Get To Know You”. It’s a short list of questions. Among them, when’s your birthday? What’s your favorite candy? Something teachers do that you like? Something teachers do that make you want to poke your eyes out with a chopstick?
The most important is a “fill in the blank”.
“If Mr. T knew this about me, he would understand me better: ________________”
The answers are honest. And enlightening.
Some students point me to their personality traits.
“I’m very competitive.”
“I’m not a morning person.”
“I’m very outgoing.”
“I talk a lot but I really don’t know why.”
“I’m a huge introvert. I keep to myself a lot.”
Some students want me to understand their classroom demeanor.
“Even when I try my best to pay attention it can look like I’m distracted.”
“I’m quiet. But quiet means I’m listening.”
“I like to be asked questions.”
“I work best in small groups.”
“It takes me forever to process questions.”
“I dive deep into conversations.”
Some students point to their current struggles.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, even when no one else does. I feel like I’ll never be ok with where I am.”
“I’m not very confident.”
“I get discouraged easily in class and that leads to discouragement in sports.”
“I’m trying to break out of my comfort zone and become my own person instead of who everyone else wants me to be.”
“I think so much about the future that I have a hard time focusing on the present.”
Some students share their heart about relating to others.
“I have a habit of pulling into my shell and not interacting with people I want to get to know. I want to befriend others but it’s so hard for me.”
“It’s difficult for me to trust people. It takes me awhile to determine their true intentions.”
“I love really big. And because of that, sometimes I get hurt.”
Sometimes we are shaped by circumstances beyond our control. We wish we could do something about it, but we can’t.
“I’m dyslexic and dysgraphic. Reading and writing are a challenge for me.”
“My parents got divorced and my Mom is remarried.”
“My Dad died.”
Reading through my students’ answers always brings smiles. And tears. We live in a wonderful and terrible, rough and tumble world. Knowing these facts about my students helps me be a better teacher and better friend to them.
How would our relationships improve if we simply remembered that everyone has something about them that, if we knew it, would completely change how we view them?
And what if, instead of grinding along wondering and wandering in frustration, we simply asked them to fill in the blank?
“Tell me something about you that will help me understand you better.”
And since it’s always best to lead by example, how about we go first?
“I know I can be confusing sometimes. Here’s something about me that might help you understand me better.”
When we understand more about someone, we extend more grace. More empathy.
Go “fill in the blank”.
Todd A. Thompson – One Eye Out
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