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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

Know...Me As A Person

To make connections and build the kinds of relationships that make a difference, we need to take time to listen to and get to know our students on a personal and consistent basis. Jimmy Casas

‘I get to know them’ is a common response when teachers are asked how they develop relationships with their students. But how exactly is that done?

Before we began our Know Teach Empower journey, we thought we knew our students, and we definitely knew their ‘data’, but realised that we didn’t truly know them. We needed to know their stories, what sparked their interest, what they were curious about.

Now we ensure that this isn’t left to chance - we are intentional about what we get to know, and how we do it. Know Teach Empower is the frame which helps us gather much of ‘the data that really matters’.

We are talking about:

  • School attendance

  • Engagement

  • Behaviour (both positive and negative)

  • Interests

  • Passions

  • Ambitions

  • Family

  • Friendships

  • Learning style

Connecting with students is the underlying priority of Know Teach Empower. A feeling of belonging is vital in order for students to achieve success. The frame of Know Teach Empower outlines a number of key areas we get to know, or connect with, our students. Each section is titled ‘Know Me as a…’, and we deliberately plan opportunities in order to gather the data we need.

We realise now, that when we started this journey, some of the data we gathered was geared more toward formative assessment and knowing our students as learners, which whilst important, didn’t provide the big picture of genuinely knowing the whole child. As we’ve progressed, we’ve modified and added domains and opportunities to gather a wider range of data, to enable us create a holistic profile of our students, and we are sure we will continue to reflect on and refine this process in the future.

Our goal is to build positive relationships with, and between, students, teachers and families, to support growth and learning. We commit to know our students in the following ways:

Know Me As A Person

Know Me As A Reader

Know Me As A Writer

Know Me As A Mathematical Thinker

Know Me As A Learner and Creator

In this blog post, I’m going to share just a few ideas I’ve either used or discovered, for the first of these domains - Know Me As A Person - which underpins all of the others. These activities can be carried out whichever mode of learning is taking place at your school - face-to-face, remote or a hybrid model.

How do you ensure your students’ stories, passions, interests and goals are woven into your assessment practice, guide your instruction, and shape your pedagogy? Trevor Mackenzie

Know Me As A Person

We need to know our students as people, not just as learners. Who are the young people who walk into our schools and classrooms every day? What is their ‘story’? What are their interests, passions, strengths? What are their goals, both for learning and life? This is the information we want to know about our students. This is the information that will allow us to make meaningful connections with our students, and in turn empower them as people.

How can we seek out this information?

Student Surveys

Many educators already use student surveys to get to know their students, with questions about home, hobbies, personality, favourites, interests, strengths, goals, what they are looking forward to or hoping to achieve that school year, etc. These surveys can be completed digitally using platforms such Seesaw, Padlet, Flipgrid, or apps such as Keynote and Book Creator, or even with pencil and paper. See some Student Survey ideas here.

REALyou Snaps

A cousin of #BookSnaps by Tara Martin, a #REALyouSnap is where students take a selfie and create a digital, visual representation of their individual passions, strengths, hobbies, and what they think makes up who they are. Use Seesaw, Pic Collage, Keynote, Book Creator, or even Snapchat (for those a little older) to create. Read more about #REALyouSnaps here.

Student D.N.A Inventories

These are a beautiful way of capturing student D.N.A – their Dreams, Needs, and Abilities – created by Laurie Macintosh, which also foster a safe and caring classroom environment, where students know they are seen and valued. Whilst Laurie advocates for collecting this information from her students in person, you could use Seesaw or Flipgird to create these digitally if in a remote learning situation. Read more about Student D.N.A Inventories here.

Flipgrid Talent Share

Discover the talents and interests of your students using this activity by Yaritza Villalba. This is a great ice-breaker, as well as a fun way for the class to get to know each other, in person and remotely. Find the Flipgrid link, as well as other amazing remote learning ideas here.

Identity Day

Looking for an amazing opportunity where the whole school community can get to know each other? Identity Day meets that criteria, as well as many more. The premise behind Identity Day is that every single student and staff member creates a display or presentation to share an interest or topic they are passionate about, then, similar to a Science Fair, everyone visits each person’s display. Imagine the sense of connectedness and community this would foster! Read more about Identity Day here, or watch George Couros explaining Identity Day and how it can be done virtually using Flipgrid.

One Word

The concept of choosing One Word to guide and inspire you for the year is from the book 'One Word that will change your life' by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page. One Word can be used to help your students identify their goals, passions and purpose, which helps you get to know them as people.

My Curious Mind

This visual art activity helps students encourage a positive attitude towards learning, explore a growth mindset, as well as provide an opportunity for students to share their interests and what they are curious about. These can be completed on paper using drawing or collage, or digitally by adding the template to Seesaw, Keynote, Book Creator or a similar app/program that allows drawing. Find the lesson plan and template here.

Get To Know Our Crew Day

For the last two years, the first week of school for the classes in our grade level has culminated in a 'Get To Our Crew Day'. This day is spent engaging in team building and getting to know you experiences with each of the grade level teachers, which enables each teacher to begin building relationships with the whole cohort of students. Read about our 2019 Get To Know Our Crew Day here, and our 2020 day here.

You could also have students complete a Passion Project or Wonder Day to help get to know your students – but we’ve included those in our Know Me As A Learner and Creator section.

When students are known, noticed, appreciated and challenged, they’re able to form deeper bonds to the school community.

The next step, as with any data, is what you do with it. Now that you’ve started to get to know each student as a person, how will this inform your teaching? How will you connect with your students, and use this ‘data’ to empower them?

I'd love to hear how you connect with your students and get to know them at the start, and during, the school year. Please share your ideas!

Follow KnowTeachEmpower on Instagram to find out more.


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