I have a huge extended family. It consists of 130 7th graders. We don’t sit around a dinning room table and eat turkey together. That kind of meal makes tummy full. We sit around student tables and take in love and acceptance from each other everyday. That kind of meal makes our hearts full. I’m beyond thankful for my students. Here is one example of why…
I like getting real with kids. Like really real. If I want to build incredibly strong relationships with kids I have to get to the roots of their life. To get to the roots, you have to do some digging. And digging can be hard work.
From day one in my classroom, especially in my advisory period, I start that beautiful process of doing life with my kids. This starts with learning some mind blowing facts about them. Not just their favorite color or the name of their dog, those are cool and important, but I’m talking about knowing things like secret talents they have or crazy experiences that have occurred with their family. I’ve even had students share they have a third… extremity. #mindblown
This past week I knew it was time that we could get really real as a group. We have laughed together. We have learned together. We have built trust together. We are a family. So I asked the question, “What do you want your advisory family members to really know about you?” Going beyond what they see about you, going beyond what you openly share with them, what is something that is way below the surface that impacts who you are at school.
To get us ready to share this intimate information I had all the students line up at the front of the class. This warm up activity would require kids to just step forward if the statement applied to them. I started with things like “if you really knew me you would know that I love junk food.” Or “If you really knew me you would know I’m the oldest child in my family.” Then we got a little deeper with questions like, “if you really knew me you would know that my parents are divorced.” Or “….somebody in my family struggles with addiction.” When I would finish reading each question, kids would step forward and cross a tape line in the middle of the floor if the statement applied to them. It was silent in the room. The only noise was the silent but oh so loud symbol of love that kids would display with their hands in the air showing the universal symbol for “I love you.”
After this we were ready to share our personal declarations of “if you really knew me.” The openness and trust that the kids displayed blew my mind. There was not a dry eye in the classroom, including me. Kids were sharing stories of alcoholism in the family, suicide of parents, body image issues, people they know in jail, and the list goes on. I literally cry as I write this post because of how proud I am of my school family, but also because my heart breaks for the things going on in their lives. Kids were hugging each other, passing out Kleenex, and most importantly just being there and loving each other through the struggles.
No doubt about it, the take-home message of the lesson was, “I’m not alone!” and it was so refreshing for them to realize it. Kids share struggles, but they only let their peers into about 10% of what’s going on in their lives. When the other 90% get shared, that’s when the roots can get really healthy!