Adventures in Faux Pas


Photo by quatro.sinko

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 two days of therapy and we’ve been happily filling these things out both days. On the third 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 four of these papers (in three days) and there was no way she was doing a fifth. 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!


(This post originally appeared on Speech Adventures.)


Mary Huston, MS, CCC-SLP, is a school based SLP with James River Multidistrict Special Education Cooperative. As part of the school-system, Mary is an active part of the RTI team for her district. Mary authored the iPad application Categories Learning Center, co-authored the SLP Goal Bank, and has another app in production. In addition to her own apps, Mary has consulted on apps with other SLPs (Pro-PA, T. Coyle, Canada; Easy Concepts, S. Benton, Barbados). Mary is on the Smarty-Ears Apps Advisory Board and routinely consults on Smarty-Ears applications with founder and CEO Barbara Fernandes.  Mary has guest lectured on using Cycles Technique for phonology therapy; Lambton College, Sarnia, ON (2011) and has presented on using iPads in therapy at North Dakota Council for Exceptional Children (2011) and Minot State University (2012). Mary is also an active user of social media and collaborates with SLPs internationally on a variety of subjects, and the author of the blog, Speech Adventures.