Adventures in Faux Pas

Also known as Adventures in Oh No…I Made Her Cry!

Yep…I’m not ashamed to admit it. I made a student cry…the first time I saw her this school year. *sigh* But really…it wasn’t my fault. Well, okay…it was…sort of.

One of the activities that I do at the beginning of the year is a “get to know you” activity. You know one of those fill in the blank worksheets that you can do with your students. It tells all about likes/dislikes/familymembers/bad habits…whatever. They are innocent…safe…and somewhat fun-like activities…right? Right? Wrong…

In all honesty, I can’t even remember why I started having kids fill them out. It was probably either something that was in the drawer when I started work and it seemed like a fun activity…or (and I’m ashamed to admit this) it was something one of my practicum supervisors did and since they did it, it must be pretty cool, and I should do it too.

Now, if you do these activities – I’m not saying it’s wrong. Not by any means..But, let me tell you my story and see if you change your mind.

Picture this…I’ve had 2 days of therapy and we’ve been happily filling these things out both days. On the 3rd day, I have a student who comes in with a speech partner. This student is not diagnosed with anything in particular but we all have our suspicions (be honest you know you have at least one just like her on your caseload). I bring out the worksheets and explain what it is…

Immediately I see this student shut down. She starts mumbling under her breath and I can tell this isn’t going to be good. I hear words like… “stupid”… “everyone”… “not going to do it”… and I think…OH NO! Then I see the tears start…*sigh*

What have I done? It’s the first day of speech and I’ve made a kid cry. Dang! That is not a good way to start the year.

Come to find out I am not the only one doing this brilliant activity (shocking isn’t it?). In fact..every teacher this student saw was doing a similar brilliant activity. By the time she saw me..she no longer considered it a brilliant activity. It made me realize…just because it’s the first time for me – does not mean it’s the first time for them.

Now, I’ve often said the same thing in reverse when it comes to playing games. Just because it’s the 30th time this week I’ve played Candy-Land does not mean it’s the 30th time for that particular student. They still get excited about it even when I’m thinking “I just can’t play this idiotic game one more time”.

Imagine my chagrin when I realized what I had done. I was excited about this brilliant activity. What a great way to get to know each kid and see them for the amazing individuals they all are. But, I had completely forgotten that it might not have been the first time for them. This kid had already filled out 4 of these papers (in 3 days) and there was no way she was doing a 5th. In fact, she told me fairly plainly that I should go see Mr. X if I wanted to find out about her because that’s the one on which she spent the most time.

Okay then…talk about feeling small…

Needless to say, I’m scrapping the whole “get to know you” worksheets. There has to be a better way.

Now, obviously I could have gotten upset that she wouldn’t fill out the form…and truth be known, I did…but when I thought about it and realized what I’d done, I understood. A part of me was pleased that she could tell me (eventually) what was wrong…even if a part of me was annoyed that I didn’t get the worksheet filled out. Needless to say… we won’t be filling those out again any time soon!

Next year…I think we’ll have a “get to know you” game of Pop-Up Pirate…Or Candy Land… or ThumbBall…Anything but worksheets!

I’d love to hear what you do for similar activities…do you do anything? Please…drop me a line. Obviously, I’m going to need some time to plan!

Until then…Adventure on!


9 thoughts on “Adventures in Faux Pas

  1. So sorry for your unfortunate experience! You’re not alone—we all have a story or two. I know so many therapists and teachers use those worksheets so I usually go in a different direction. Thumball is a fun option, however I think I found a great idea to start the year. Check out this free download from TPT website….using Jenga as an icebreaker—love this idea!!! She tapes the open ended question to each block. When you pull that block from the pile, answer the question. I think the kids will enjoy this! Good luck !

  2. I admit to never doing get-to-know-you activities with my kids! Mostly because I feel it takes too much time away from the precious few therapy visits we get up here. I usually do ask some questions at the beginning of each session, like what they did yesterday etc, but that’s really only because I’m trying to develop the ability to discuss remote events.

    • If I only had a few sessions I doubt that I’d be willing to spend the time working on a get-to-know-you activity either. I do like doing them – but I definitely have to change the how and why I do them…Maybe just limit them to the kids that are new on my caseload.

  3. I went to introduce myself to one of students in the hallway and he was a student working on articulation. I told him that since he was in middle school, I was a “speech drill sergeant” because I make my students work really hard so that they can get dismissed. Imagine my dismay when I called his mom to introduce myself only to find out his dad truly is a drill sergeant. Poor kid was petrified of me. Made me feel really small. My approach with him will be much different next session!!

  4. I always play “Hunt the Human” Depending on the age of the kids I grade the questions accordingly. They may have to find someone with an older brother / younger sister, or someone in the group born in the same month as them. That way the kids get to know each other and I do too. The kids always enjoy this because they get to move around I haven’t had tears ……yet 🙂

  5. I am working on my book, with the working title of “Walking Beside,” My little one with selective mutism taught me the real truth about the demands we place on kids to communicate. I learned to STOP ASKING for speech, but let it emerge. For this little one, it meant several weeks of holding my hand as we walked down the hall, my occasionally pointing out “There’s the door to the library. I like going there.” but keeping my eyes on the road, so to speak.

    I like to set out something that no one else in school has—bubbles, sticker books, but most often it is……..Ta Dah—-broken crayons! Maybe there is a deeper soul message here (It just occurs to me at this moment. Have today’s children seen anything re-used, even though it is ugly….or do we just toss things that are not perfect?) I just draw, usually a picture of my house “I have a yellow house….Hmm. Not this yellow, but kinda brownish…” We help each other, eyes on the jumbled box, each of us drawing our house. I find out who lives there, whether this is a child with 2 houses and 4 parents, a goldfish or a grandpa in heaven looking down. Not to mention, color awareness, comofort level, hand-skills, visual discrim and what they love.

  6. Well, I’m a one-trick pony with precious little experience to add… but if you’re in a group setting, maybe it would make sense to focus on “get to know each other” instead of “get to know you”?

    Chances are that they’re not with the same kiddos all day, so something where they are focused on each other and you’re just paying attention and taking notes? Yes: this is all leading up to the “My Friends Bingo” idea that we talked about. Perhaps add something where when you call their name they have to tell you something about themselves.

    Here’s the video:

    It’s easy enough that you can actually do it on the first day if you have a smart-phone & printer handy, and if you don’t like Bingo, then the other things like Playing Cards & “I Have/Who Has” work just as well with the photos.

    Hope this helps, and have a great start of the year!

  7. Love your story! My first day of therapy will be Monday….since we are required to get a baseline on all goals…my first session will be getting down to business and getting that baseline to do progress monitoring charting every 2 weeks. Since I will have 4-8 graders this year…they will be able to handle the no frills approach….not much fun but it has to be done. I will probably just add a little bit of …”Do you want to share anything with me about yourself or ask any questions about me?” They probably won’t at this age…but I will give them the chance.

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