Surprises from "I wish my teacher knew. . ."
My classroom is a windowless suite in an industrial warehouse building. There are eight students, ages 6 to 9 ¾. The next nearest classroom to ours is down the road at the elementary school. We are a “pandemic pod”.
Most the students know each other from “before”. Many attended school together, some parents work together, and some are siblings. Co-creating a learning space with families requires that everyone get to know each other rather quickly, and one of our top priorities as adults in the space is to attend to the children and check in with them frequently. Kids are resilient, but not unaffected.
In early November, when I read about the “I wish my teacher knew. . .” prompt, we already had a system of teambuilding games, check-ins, sharing times, and individual/group reflection practices. Rather than integrate a new activity, I added this prompt to the weekly reflections that students fill out each Friday.
What’s intriguing to me is that the students mostly use the space to tell us “school stuff”. When they share aloud or tell stories, their home lives are at the forefront. With this reflection prompt, they tell different stories. They tell us about conflicts in the classroom, what they liked or didn’t like about the week’s activities, and how hard they worked on a project. Sometimes there’s a simple “I love school” or “I don’t know”. A couple weeks ago, a student wrote that she’s ready to try harder math problems. The following Monday, her face lit up when I told her that we’d moved her to something new because of her reflection.
So, this new prompt has done something I didn’t expect. It’s become somewhat of a self-assessment tool. More students have started using it for similar purposes, telling us where they need help and what more they’d like to try. It’s such a joy to have this communication with my students. So often we do things for children that they are capable of doing—and want to do—for themselves. With this prompt, I don’t guess or project what I think a child wants or needs, I am a resource for what they already know they want and need.