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I Wish My Teacher Knew...

A New Activity for My Firsties

Written by Maggie Marley
November 16, 2020

I tried a new activity today. A slip of paper given to students that simply wrote, “I wish my teacher knew:”. I was a bit skeptical, because many of my first graders struggle with writing…so I wasn’t sure I’d get much out of it. First, we did a little priming.
We read the story, “The Invisible Boy”. Quick plug: It’s SUCH a great story with incredible illustrations. In the story, the main character is drawn in black and white, while the rest of the students are drawn in color. The boy (Brian) is left out time and time again – even the teacher has trouble noticing him, because she is distracted by students who are loud, or are complaining, etc. He feels invisible. It isn’t until a new student joins his classroom and notices how great he is at drawing, that his character begins to gain color. The more noticed and appreciated he feels, the more color his character gains. It’s super sweet, and my sweet, compassionate firsties loved it. It sparked so much great conversation about noticing people, making sure nobody in our class feels invisible and how sometimes we feel unappreciated at home or school.

After reading,  I told them that they are SO important to me, but that there may be times where I haven’t noticed them, or paid attention. I apologized for this, but then asked them if they’d share something with me that they wished they knew. I wanted to know these things. They’re words and they’re stories matter.  I handed out the slips of paper and told them I’d be the only one to read these notes.  They were thrilled with the “secret-ness” of it.

I’m sure this activity could be done without as much preface for older kiddos – but I felt like I really had to prime them so they understood what we were doing.

Of course it was still a mixture of responses…”I wish my teacher knew  I like art”, “I wish my teacher knew I nvr get to see my bruther”, “I wish my teacher knew I’m not rly good at doing homework”, “I wish my teacher knew I rile like you – you are the best teacher evr” (yes, sweetest ever)….you get the idea. It was great. I felt like even the kiddos who wrote simple messages felt a bit more connected to me as they handed me the slip of paper – folded up all secretly. I think the gesture of giving them time and space to tell me anything meant something to them. Some kids didn’t get as vulnerable as I hoped – but I think we’ll grow this muscle throughout the year. They’re only 6 after all 😉

I’d like to continue to use this in some way or another. Perhaps a mailbox that is always available to drop in “I wish my teacher knew notes” – or just a regular check in for students to share with me. I’m curious to see and read how others incorporate this into their classes as well. I’d love to learn more.

Thanks for reading – I’d encourage everyone to try this activity and see what comes of it. Even your young, barely-writers may surprise you!