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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using personal experiences when teaching.

Using personal experiences when teaching.

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79 Replies 2886 Views

How far is too far when using one's own experiences to assist in delivering a lesson? Can we for the most part keep our experiences to ourselves but still have the students 'connect' with us? I thought about these questions as I was reading an article for an assignment. Sure, we all want our children to trust us and to feel comfortable enough to open up when they have problems, but is there an invisible line we shouldn't venture accross? I look forward to your feedback.

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Susan Paradee's picture

Kelly, that was wonderful that you were able to have an effective impact on your students. I have to agree that when you can connect the content knowledge to a real world experience students become more engaged and are drawn in and can connect what your saying because of the experience.

Tracy Winters's picture

Common sense is key to knowing when or what to share verus what is inappropriate. However, your experiences are life life lessons. Students need these types of lessons in addition to the basic curriculum. Our job is to teach what is expected, but to prepare them for life. Part of life is learning from mistakes, and if children can learn from my mistakes just like I do, then all the better.

Ashley's picture

I agree with all of your postings. I feel that bringing in personal expereinces in a classroom is very important. Where I teach the students do not get to experience some of the things that I did as a child. Most experiences are slim for them. Simply going out to dinner is sometimes the highlight. Most of my students have not been any where out of the town they live in. The other day I was talking about taking a field trip to the museum and I had a student say, "Can we please go to the museum? I have never been to one of those before." That student did not even know what the museum was. I then started to describe my experiences on what I saw there from visits and they became so inspired. Even when I talk about my family, puppy, or trips I have been on my students seem to light up! They learn so much from just hearing about my own personal experiences and they yearn to hear more. When I tell my stories it makes them make some text to self connections and the stories thoughts start flowing! Communication is key!

Tanesha Finley's picture
Tanesha Finley
7th grade math, Mendenahll, MS

I often share personal experiences with my students in the classroom, as Ashley stated in her post, I have students who have slim to no experiences outside of there little town. And if our students can relate our personal experiences to whats going on in there lives or connect our personal experiences to the lesson, then that means we are doing a great job at what we do, TEACH!! Of course, by all means you have to use common sense in the type of experiences you share but if the information is relevant and appropriate, by all means share...

Megan Lowery's picture

I enjoy reading everyone's blog about this topic. I am in total agreement about what everyone has to say about it. I think the lessons mean more to the students when you can draw from your own experiences. It makes us seem human to them and not just a teacher. When I relate personal experiences into lessons, it always seems to amaze my students that I have a life outside of school. I have family and friends, pets. I go places outside of school and do other activities other than teach. My students warm up to me when I can relate to them on a topic. It encourages them to open up and share when they know I am in the same boat. I encourage all teachers to share something personal with their class each year.

Megan Lowery's picture

I agree with you Josh. You cannot be a private person when it comes to teaching. Everyone should be open minded and not be afraid to share a story or two. I also agree that the teacher needs to know where the line should be drawn when it comes to sharing. If it is too personal or negative, it should not be shared. If it will help the class and be a positive influence, I think it is ok to share.

Sherena Perkins's picture

I totally agree with you Megan when you said when you teach and relate your own personal experiences "It makes us seem human to them and not just a teacher." I teach prek and my kids get so surprised when they hear Ms. Sherena watches Dora or Spongebob Squarepants. Sometimes, I have seen my students at grocery stores and they become so surprised when Im there. They say "Arent you supposed to be at school?" I laughed because my student actually thought I live at school.

Another thing that I do in my class is integrate multiculuralism into my class as we go and visit different countries around the world each month. We make our passports and At the end of each month, we "go" to those places as I change the entire room to make it look like that country. We eat that countries food, play kids games and make souvenirs. Its really exciting because I love to travel and I enjoy making it exciting for them as it is for me. My kids love hearing about my experiences in each country and they are just fascinated with what I tell them.

Nichole Tarkanick's picture

I totally agree that bringing in your own personal experience makes learning more meaningful for the students. I work in a school where most kids do not go anywhere other than school and home. I "looped" with my students from second to third grade, so I feel that we have such an amazing relationship. They were with me through my marriage, buying a house and having sick family members. We sit down and have class meetings also that help us to share things with each other, just like a family would. They love to hear stories about their teachers as kids or what happened to them while they were in school. But I think that some teachers need to be careful of the very thin line that shouldn't be crossed. The age of your students is a big determination of where that line is.
My kids have been shocked many times when I know the words to the newest songs they are singing, I think they sometimes forget that I am a normal person and not jsut a teacher!

Nancee Gormley's picture
Nancee Gormley
8&9th grade Family Consumer Sciences teacher from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

I think we are obligated in a way to share a personal perspective through experiences with our students. We are, after all roll models for them so it is crucial that they see us as real people. I think that personal antecdotes make learning come alive and my students seem re-focused after a quick story or side note. I teach a segment on community service and always bring my gallon pins fron the Red Cross. When I explain the need blood donations and describe how simple it is to save lives, many of my students choose that as a future service that they would be interested in. I get very excited when I run into a former student at a blood drive, and it happens on a regular basis now!

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