Two Truths and a Lie
Giving children voice is my thing. Students discuss, debate, analyze and scrutinize everything. One of my tools for building the trust needed to have a classroom of collaborators is to do morning meetings where we check-in with how we are feeling. Another strategy has been to use the “What I Wished My Teacher Knew” writing prompt. But every class is not the same, and I have modified the execution of the prompt to fit each of my classes’ identities.
With a class of 5th graders, filled with students dealing with trauma, I did “What I Wished” anonymously and kept the writing to myself. With a class full of 4th grade clowns, I did it as a snowball fight, where I warned them we would be sharing their responses aloud, even though the author would remain unknown.
This year, I have the perfect class. These kids are so angelic I almost don’t want to admit it out loud for fear of jinxing everything and/or turning my colleauges into green monsters. As sweet as they are, I know there are still hidden parts, unkind realities. But, they are also so young, as if missing the second half of second grade arrested their maturity. I could almost hear the responses in my head, “I want my teacher to know that I think she’s nice.” ( Of course it would be spelled: “I wat my tacer to no thet i thank she’s nic” so I prefer to visualize this exercise recited verbally.) There would also be the, ” I want my teacher to know I love pandas and unicorns.” And the: “I have two sisters. One I like and one who bugs me.”
The kids who would really like me to know who they are in this class show me with their hard work. Like prancing horses in a ring, all braided and saddled, in perfect formation, look at me, they say, look at me. Look. The one or two who might have something they truly wish they could say, but don’t have the words to do so, don’t have the words to do so. Yet.
So, this year, I decided to play a few rounds of two truths and a lie. This fun game built a lot of background knowledge between our classmates. After 12 weeks, with all new classes created 8 weeks in, we are just approaching a place where their trust and maturity might be able to express what these students really desire to be known.
We will try the prompt after the holidays, but part of me would like to hold on to my one perfect class. The perfect angels who I imagine to be happy, and secure, brave, and eager. After a brutal and exhausting year, I just want to only see the good a little while longer. That’s my truth, I want to lie to myself just a little longer, but I know I can’t.
Come January, we will write, “What I Wish My Teacher Knew” and we will face it together, no matter if it’s a pet that has died, a grandpa who has been deported, a mom dying of cancer, a brother who is cruel, a daddy missed at breakfast, or the feeling of not fitting in. In the new year, my angels will write to me about their secret issues and they will have a teacher who they can trust will be there.