When You See Your Teacher in Public

by Christina Annunziata


“Is he one of yours?” my husband asked as we waited at a bus stop.  I looked up and saw one of my fourth grader’s dead in his tracks, mouth open in awe. It was indeed. We had been spotted in the wild. He approached with his mother and while the adults chatted, he stood, mouth still open in awe. As they walked away my husband chuckled and commented on the boy’s reaction to seeing his teacher out in public. “It was you he was interested in,” I pointed out. Yes, there is a certain shock to seeing your teacher beyond the context of the classroom but I kept a close eye on my kiddo during our exchange. I watched as he gave my husband a once over, then return to study each detail further. The legend that was often featured in my classroom stories had come to life. Confirmation came that Monday during morning meeting. “Is it true, does your husband like the Mets? He was wearing a Mets hat…” News spreads fast in the fourth grade and I had a wonderful opportunity for engagement and connection.


It felt like a trick. Starting out a lesson with a quick story about myself, friends, or family instantly captured the attention of my class.  Sharing with my students was an effortless method of engagement and made the curriculum feel relevant and relatable. It was also an opportunity to connect. Letting students learn about who you are as an individual builds trust and camaraderie. Writing personal narratives- make it a real one from your childhood. Teaching measurement- start with a picture of you cooking in your kitchen (proof that you don’t live in school!).


I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was some actual science behind that engagement and connection. When we listen to stories, we activate the parts of our brain necessary for language processing but any other area in our brain that we would use when we experience the events are also activated. For example, if a story includes motion, our motor cortex becomes active.  My students were engaged because that story that I was using as a hook was getting their whole brain warmed up.


Sharing stories with students is a simple way to build authentic relationships and encourage students to relate.  It’s an opportunity to build community by sharing an experience and inviting humor and creativity into the classroom. Plus, the look on their faces is totally worth it.