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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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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 Grant's picture

As a teacher that is a transplant to New England, my students love to hear about my growing up in the Deep South. They ask many questions and if they had their way, they would take a whole class period asking things. I don't hesitate to share personal experiences with my students. Since I teach middle school language arts, I share my returned papers from my Master's program and let the students see what corrections my prof suggests on my papers. They find this amusing and also ask why some other wording is better. I am also writing a novel for young adults and have been reading installments to them. They love it and ask how I know where to stop a chapter and start a new one, etc. These times have provided a way to connect with my students in a way that wouldn't have happened otherwise!

Susan Grant's picture

Being a transplant to New England for the deep South, my students love to hear stories about what it's like where I'm from. They ask many questions and they would take up an entire class period asking things if I let them. I teach middle school language arts and I will often share returned papers from my Master's program with my students. They get a kick out of seeing the comments and corrections my professor offer and we discuss why some wording was better than others. I am also writing a novel for young adults and I read them installments. They love this and they ask so many questions about how I'm doing this. They want to know how I know when to end chapters and why, etc. Sharing personal experiences has opened many doors in my classroom that may have stayed closed otherwise!

Tracy Winters's picture

Susan~ I could not agree more. When you share things with your students, converstations and discussions arise that would otherwise not happen. I have had that happen in relation to trips I have taken, or holidays with family, or little things like stories about a pet. This is such a wonderful insight. Thank you.

Susan Grant's picture

I find it easier to share things with my students than I do with other adults. In my mind I think of it as enhasing my lesson or relationship with the students. I would like to be more open with adults. Do you find this is true for you?

carla's picture

I agree that sharing personal experiences with your students is a way to connect with them, and them to you but there is definitely a line that can be crossed that would be harmful to the students and to the teacher. My students love for me to share my life with them. It is good for them to know things about me and my family. It can also be a good way to enhance a lesson and connect it to everyday life. We just need to make sure what we are sharing is still on a professional level and remember we are dealing with children, not adults.

Annette Gilbert's picture

I also think that using personal experience when teaching is very useful. It helps the kids see that they can relate to you. They can relate a personal experience to an activity that is being taught in the class. I think kids need to see that what they are taught is applicable to the real world. For a lesson such as snow when living in the carribean I think you should go about the lesson in a different way. Maybe it could be a research project. If not like someone else mentioned, as the teacher you make the snow so they can see and feel what it is like. Real life experiences shared in the classroom I think makes the kids feel closer to you and as result they will open up about their life.

Teri Weidlein's picture

I agree that using personal experiences when teaching can be very helpful. My experience has been that students love when I share stories or experiences from my personal life. I believe it "humanizes" me more in their eyes. They don't just see me as living in my classroom 24/7 and that I have more to offer than the text book information. I believe they will remember a lesson I teach in which I relate my own experience better than just giving them the information they need to know.

Tonya Walton's picture

It seems like the overall consensus has been that teachers to bring their personal experiences into the classroom. I agree, Barry and Kelly, I don't think we can help but not. It helps us connect with our students and relate to them outside of the the classroom.

My question, where do we draw the line???

Zakiyyah Watts's picture

In my opinion, it is not a bad idea to use life experiences within lessons. Teachers have to be selective when sharing. When I share certain experiences with my students, it seems to make them feel more comfortable. Because I share with them, they look at me as being just as human as they are. They begin to open up during class discussions. I use my experiences as teachable moments.

Stephanie Sanchez's picture

I think that there is a very distinct line that teachers should not cross when they are sharing their personal experiences. I think that by using common sense you will know when you should not talk about a certain experience and when it is okay.

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