How will you tell your students about YOU?

It’s August. Everywhere you look on education blogs or edu-Twitter, there are posts about going back to school.

I know—I’ve written my fair share of them. Last year, I wrote about using centers for the first day of school and this year I wrote about relationships mattering more than content.

But as you read about great ideas for the first day of school and building relationships, you need to answer a question.

How are you going to tell your students about you?

It might seem like a silly question, but it’s one that needs to be answered.

  • Do you want your students to know about your family?
  • Your friends?
  • Your pets?
  • Your beliefs?
  • Your politics?
  • Your faith?

I’m not going to try to tell you to share any of those things, that’s your choice. What I am going to tell you is this:

Make a plan to tell your students about you.

Understand that there is no perfect way to tell students all about you, but here are some things to try.

1. Write a letter to families.

There is no guarantee that most families will read the letter. In some cases, it won’t get home, and in other cases, parent/guardians will sign off without looking. Even if you email it, that delete button is too tempting for some.

But some families, they read everything. They want to know who is with their student for 40 minutes a day or all day.

Writing a letter gives you the control to reveal what you want about yourself, but it might not be seen by every family.

2. Make a video.

It’s 2018, and you have access to a video camera that is better than anything available to classrooms when you were in school. Make a video and talk about yourself. Talk about your class. Give a tour of your classroom. Make it short and sweet (I don’t think any parent wants to watch you go on and on for 10 minutes).

Again, you control the message in this—you can share as much about yourself as you want.

I’ve done a couple of videos, but my favorite was this one from when I was in Colombia with Teachers for Global Classrooms in 2016. If you watch it, you can see how low-tech it was—me and an iPhone. It was a great way to talk about me and my curriculum. If only I knew at the time how to pick a better image to be the image everyone saw!

3. Do the get-to-know you activities you ask your students to do.

Whether it’s Bingo, a who-am-I activity,  or team-building, do it! Model what you are asking of students. If it’s icebreakers, demonstrate using them—yes, students care to know what your favorite pizza topping or favorite summer activity is.

The only thing to consider is what message is getting to families. Will students go home and tell their parents about you? While that might seem a little selfish, remember, these parents are putting their trust and faith in you, so yes, you want them to know about you!

On my kitchen table is my wife’s 2nd-grade family example. Do the activity you ask students to do!
Sam Mandeville of #worldgeochat texted me the other day as she was making a sample of a get-to-know-you activity for her students.

4. Monologue

You could do what I did for years and just tell them about yourself. But … are they listening on the first day, when they are trying to figure out who is in their classes, where they go next, and if they can make it to the bathroom and their locker in the next passing period? Also, will any of it get home to parents?

5. Let things play out

You could just let them get to know you as time goes on. I think we all do that to some extent. It’s not overwhelming for anyone, and it’s natural to tell people the basics at first, and then add on over time.

Just remember, the longer it takes to build that relationship, the longer it will take to trust you and buy into whatever you’re selling (and never forget, you’re in the sales business).

Other things to try throughout the year to let them know about you.

  • Put pictures in your room. Pictures of your family. Pictures of your friends (especially your school friends). Pennants of favorite teams. Postcards from places you’ve been. These are all things that help your students connect to YOU.
  • Use social media. I learned at a conference years ago (seriously, this was the MySpace era) that you have to meet students where they are. Figure out what social media is appropriate for your students and have a profile there. Post school stuff, but occasionally, slip in personal stuff—your family, your dog, your weekend trip to a baseball game. Whatever. Remind your students that you are a human too!
  • Smile. I’ll never understand the teachers who used to say, “don’t smile until after Thanksgiving.” What a stupid thing to say! Smile and let them know that you are happy to be a teacher. Happy to have them in your classroom. Happy to know them.

What do you do to let your students know about you? Comment, or let me know on Twitter (@cheffernan75)!

And don’t forget to join #worldgeochat when it returns on August 28!



Chris is one of our #worldgeochat bloggers. #worldgeochat is a professional learning network at its finest—a community of learners who work with each other and for each other. Join us each Tuesday night at 9 Eastern/8 Central—click here for a list of upcoming topics!

4 thoughts on “How will you tell your students about YOU?

  1. It’s really great blog. It’s very important for teachers to make a familiar and sound relationship with students to know their likes, dislikes, strengths and interests. Thanks for sharing this helpful article.

  2. For my Middle Schoolers I loop my intro lesson with social media. I take screenshots of some of my Facebook posts that show my family with details about our lives (like in front of their schools, in a school jersey, at the bus stop). Then I ask them what they can tell me about my kids by looking at the pictures. Then I pull it together by discussing how much info they learned by just looking at my social media posts, and what that means if I have “friends” who I don’t know or if my social media was unprotected. If I have time and the kids have their devices, I get them to research the details so they can see how easy it would be to pinpoint their exact locations. I get a guaranteed lightbulb moment every time! I finish by telling them to also go home and have a conversation with their families about what types of posts about them they are comfortable with.

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