Icebreaker

By Melissa Face

I have been in the classroom for 12 years now as a teacher. It has been about a decade, however, since I sat on the other side of the desk, as a student. That changed earlier this month when I signed up for some graduate courses to earn a Gifted Education endorsement.

Like many teachers I know, I was looking forward to insightful discussions, peer-reviewed articles, and crisp, new notebooks. I was happy to buy the required textbooks for the class, and I didn’t even mind the idea of writing a few papers. I mainly had concerns about how I would balance my new graduate school assignments with my already overwhelming responsibilities of teaching and mothering. It made me nervous.

But when our instructor arrived, she introduced herself and told us she understood the demanding lives of adult learners. Her calming presence put the class at ease, including me, until she explained our first task.

For an icebreaker, we had to tell two truths and one lie about ourselves. The catch was that we had to use illustrations and share them with the class for everyone to guess which was made up.

Sadly, it wasn’t the idea of lying that made my heart race and my forehead sweat. I may have lied a couple of times in my life, like when one of my loudest classes asked me if they were my favorite. It wasn’t the lying that bothered me; it was the drawing.

My artistic skills make me feel so inept that I experience what many people do when they are faced with public speaking: a full blown anxiety attack, with a side of clammy hands, sweaty pits, and dry throat. Aren’t icebreakers intended to EASE tension?

I immediately tried to think of things that would be easy to draw: stick figures, hearts, and boxes. And so the exercise became more about me finding a simple drawing than actually introducing myself to the class.

Once the introductory portion of the class was behind us, the rest of the morning was a breeze. And in addition to taking away theories of multiple intelligence and characteristics of gifted learners, I also took away the idea of the icebreaker. I figured I could use it with my students next school year, but with one exception: I will allow students to draw OR write their two truths and a lie. I don’t want to torture anyone unnecessarily, just in case there is someone else who feels the way I do about drawing.

Icebreakers definitely serve a purpose. They are designed for us to become more comfortable and better acquainted with one another. But wouldn’t that still have happened if I had been allowed to write my two truths and a lie?

As unnerving as the experience was, I’m glad it happened. I’m always in search of ways to reach and connect with all of my students. And sometimes, the best way to understand a student is to become one for a while.

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