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Empowering Through Education by Judianne Jayme

Tell me about yourself – shaping identity

by Judianne Jayme

I adore meeting new people – they always come with a new set of lessons, as long as you make the conscious choice to see it this way. The more that I am approached by others for collaboration, workshops, and personal/professional development, the more I become intrigued when I ask this question.

“Tell me about yourself,” I’ll ask anyone I’m meeting for the first time.

On average, about eight out of 10 people will answer me by telling me their occupation. “Well, I’m a nurse specializing in…” “I’ve been a teacher for the past number of years…” “Sure, I’m an engineer working at…” “I’m a retired lawyer who practiced in…” I, myself, was guilty of this response up until a few years ago.

As adults, this is perhaps something we are naturally inclined to do. The reason this intrigues me is how different it is from when I ask students the same question. By students, I’m not only referring to my sixth graders, but I’m also speaking about the various youth that I am working with on different projects – and I have asked this to plenty of mature high school-level youth – interestingly with the same results as I get from my elementary students.

When I ask students, they tell me that they are a brother/sister, they tell me what they are interested in, or what their favourite foods, colours, or activities are. They tell me what matters to them at their core self, at this point in their lives. Sure, we can chalk this up to the fact that, as adults, our lives are now built into the routine of responsibilities and work, and with work being at the forefront, we identify most with what we do for a living. But is that really primarily who we are, or is it simply what we do? More important, isn’t it only what we do to earn money?

I’ve challenged myself and my students to see each other as humans first; humans with a unique set of skills, life experiences and understanding. This core idea encourages empathy and sincerely getting to know a person. I also encourage them to learn about tolerance; that we don’t all have to agree, but we should be respectful of each other’s differences.

Parent Tip: How do you see yourself?

I challenge parents this week to ask your children this question and hear what they have to say about themselves. We often ask fleeting circumstantial questions about each other’s days – which is still important, of course – but take time to hear what your children have to say about themselves.

Now practice this for yourself. Tell me about you! Who are you as a person, beyond your career? What matters most? Know yourself and live everyday as your true self. See the difference it makes in your life. Have a great month, everyone!

Judianne Jayme is an educator teaching sixth grade and a division-wide mentor in the Winnipeg School Division.

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