I wish my teacher knew...
At the start of each school year I always assign the same activity. I ask my students to take out a piece of paper and to finish this sentence, “I wish my teacher knew…”. The first few weeks are filled with getting to know you activities, building trust among peers and adults, and creating a strong, safe, and accepting classroom environment. The typical responses tell me a little bit about my students, like what their favorite food is, how many siblings they have, who they live with, their favorite after school activities and tv shows. I then use this information to build relationships with my students and help my students build relationships with each other based on their common interests or lifestyles.
However, this school year did not begin quite as we would have liked. Even though we were not in the classroom, it was even more imperative to build trusting relationships with my students and each other. I assigned this assignment at the start of the school year and received a lot of the typical responses I was used to. A few more responses were about COVID and how much the students missed school and their classmates.
In an effort to check in on my students in a more private setting, I began assigning journaling in the mornings. I offered it as a way to write about how we feel, tell me how they feel, or to simply have a space to write about anything they’d like. I framed it as a way to respond to, “I wish my teacher knew”. Some students responded in the same way as at the beginning of the year. However, some students really shared how they felt. They wrote about feeling stressed about COVID cases, not seeing their family and friends, worried about when they will return to school, and feeling a lot of pressure from the homework assignments. I’m so glad I provided this space to check in, have students write about what they feel, and have a space to share, communicate, and write.