If you really knew me

If+you+really+knew+me

I sat on a beanbag around a furry green carpet with a group of my Health classmates, a large portion of whom I’d never spoken to outside of school. I looked around nervously, my fingers fidgeting restlessly with the hem of my sweater. After watching a video of a school where students had been brought closer together by an activity called ‘If you really knew me’, we were being asked to do the same.

“If you really knew me” consists of each member of the class revealing something about themselves that gives the others a deeper understanding of who they are. Each student starts with the phrase “If you really knew me, you would know…,” then attempts to give their classmates a better understanding of what they have going on under the surface.

The idea was that maybe, if we knew some of the things going on in each other’s lives, we would treat each other differently. As lovely as this idea is, it’s just not realistic.

I’ve always been someone who values and enjoys Health as a class. To me, there was a significant contrast between the comfortable, relaxed way that hard topics have been handled in the past and the approach taken with this activity.

In a rushed 15 minute conversation, I listened as my classmates, some more than others, opened up. We went around in a circle, taking turns sharing intimate details about our lives.

I knew that there was no way that my grade could be brought down by my unwillingness to share. Yet, a part of me felt an innate pressure to do as the person next to me had done, and even as my teacher had done.

And as a result of that pressure, I shared something pretty intimate with a group of 17 people, and gained nothing from it except some uncomfortable smiles.

Maybe I approached the activity wrong  – perhaps I shared something that I wasn’t ready to, or I wasn’t open to changing the way I think. But no matter what made this activity so uncomfortable for me, the possible benefits at a school as small as ours could never justify the risk that students face of feeling the way I do now.  

Instead of my openness breeding new friendships or understandings, all it’s given me is a deep-seeded fear that someone will breach confidentiality. Any fleeting glance in the hallway or casual conversation with students from that class are tainted by my knowledge that this near stranger knows an intricate detail of my life that most of my close friends do not.

Moreover, I have friends who’ve expressed that they felt almost guilty that bad things hadn’t happened to them in the past, that they didn’t have something interesting to share.There is just something fundamentally wrong with an activity that makes students feel like they’re in the wrong for not having gone through anything traumatic

I know there are students who really enjoyed this activity, but there just doesn’t seem to be any positive effect that comes from confiding in a roomful of strangers.

If this activity continues, there should be less pressure to share your specific story. I believe this could be easily done by having the teacher leave the room. This would make the activity seem much more optional, and would also take pressure off of students who have nothing they feel they need to share. I urge the Health teachers to rethink their decision to have this activity in its current form as part of the curriculum.