Sometimes we lose sight of how our students want to be seen. Instead, we see what their previous teachers told us they saw. We see what their paperwork tells us to see. We see what other concerned parents tell us they’ve seen. We see what our busy, overwhelmed selves see when we just want to move on with our content. Sometimes we see trouble. Sometimes we see laziness. Sometimes we see a lack of empathy. Sometimes we see an unmotivated student. But we forget that each of our students wants to be seen as something great. As something wonderful.
For the past two years, I have started off our school year, by asking my students, “What’s Your Sentence?” This question comes from the author Daniel Pink and it asks people to think about how they want to be seen and how they want to be remembered. (For more on the activity, feel free to read last year’s post).
This year, as I compiled my students’ responses and sentences into a short video, I thought about why i found this activity so moving. And what I settled on is the power of sharing how you want to be seen instead of relying simply on how you are seen. No child has ever written in his sentence that he wants to be seen as someone who doesn’t care about anything. No child says that she wants to be seen as someone who makes life difficulty for others. No one wants to be seen as someone who can’t work with other people. No one wants to be seen in these ways.
Each of my students has a hope to be seen in a certain way. Some want to be seen as kind. Some want to be seen as smart. Some want to be seen as strong and passionate. No matter what they want to be seen as, they each want to be seen as something good. They might not quite be there yet. They might not know exactly how to match their actions to the ways they want to be seen and remembered, but the ways that they hope that they are seen are so good. And it is our job to help them learn how to live up to those sentences.
Seeing my students this way. Seeing them, for just a moment, in the exact way they want to be seen. It makes me love them so very much.
I think this is why this activity holds so much power for me. It is why I find the final videos so moving. It is why I will continue to ask my students to share their sentences with me.
If you are interested, here is this year’s video. Enjoy!