Personal Life in the Classroom

I have daddy issues. I was 10 the last time I saw my father. I spoke to him once later on the phone, but I never saw him again. He died in 2008. I attended the funeral and went through emotions that I can’t really describe. I have written about my father, mostly to deal with these emotions.

In the composition classroom, I want my students to feel comfortable enough to share their deepest emotions — in discussion maybe, but at least (and especially) in writing. Because of this, I often bring my personal life into the classroom. I share with them my daddy issues. I even let them read an unpublished narrative I wrote called “Daddy Die Hard” about my father, my own fatherhood, and the profound effect John McClane has had on my life. Usually, their first response is “Who’s John McClane?” If you’re reading this and you don’t know, Google him.

After I share some of my personal life with students, some of them seem to feel a little more comfortable with me, and maybe a little more comfortable with each other. Not all of the students, but some of them. But, as I prepare for the fall semester, I wonder if I’ve been sharing too much. By sharing, I’m sacrificing authority to make the students open up more; still, I don’t want them to stop taking me seriously.

How much of your personal life do you bring into the classroom?

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