What I Wish My Teacher Knew
If I’m honest, I’ve forgotten most of my past teacher’s names. I’ve been going to school for most of my life, I’m still taking classes as we speak, and I can count on my both hands how many teachers I remember. The number does go up if I picture them by the class they taught, but I don’t remember many names. Literally, I’m counting names as I’m writing. In Kindergarten, there was Mrs. Grant. I only remember spinning around in circles during playtime in her class. Mrs. Fitzgerald was my high school Drama teacher. She rocked! I will always remember her! After that, I can name my favorite college teachers, but not many from k-12 stick out to me. As a new teacher, I’ve often been asked to reflect on my own experiences as a student. Before college, only a few were really memorable to me. I can remember the clubs I was in, speech, drama, and the activities we did, but the classes don’t stand out. I didn’t feel like my teachers knew me, and I didn’t know much about them. It felt like they were there to give me school work. Sometimes it was interesting to me. Most of the time, it wasn’t. Either way, I probably didn’t do it. I was a slacker in school! Truth be told, I’m still working on being a better student.
I couldn’t tell you if there has always been a push to build relationships with students in education. I don’t know if this priority is new. I feel like a lack of connection to my teachers during my younger years was part of what made school a thing to get through instead of a place I wanted to be. I’m glad it’s a priority in education now! It’s definitely the most important priority for the school I teach with. We teach in a loop (a group of kids is with me for both 3rd and 4th grade) to build deeper relationships with students. It’s also emphasized at the school I’m attending almost every week. I’m glad! Building relationships with my students is my absolute favorite part of teaching.
As part of our homework for NWP, we were asked to allow our students to answer the question, “What do you wish your teacher knew about you?” I initially dismissed the project, not because I didn’t think it was important to learn about my students, but because I thought I already knew a lot about them. I also felt like I already gave them a space to tell me about themselves. I send out a google survey to them every week, asking them about their experiences for the week. I had a section for “anything else?” I decided, though, changing that section to those exact words, “What I wish my teacher knew about me,” was worth a try. I discovered a big difference between inviting kids to share about themselves and asking them if they have anything else to share.
I learned that my students really want to connect with me. When students started sharing their interests, they often ended their answers with the word too. I like Disney too! I like rollerblading too! I like singing too! They wanted me to know how we are alike. Others wanted me to know about their talents. I started to learn about what they are experts at and what they enjoyed doing. I learned about family life, shared and unshared interests, favorite subjects, vacations, hopes and dreams– the list of happy things went on and on. I liked seeing everything so much that I left that question in the survey for a few more weeks than I had planned.
One of the truly wonderful things started to happen after they discovered they could put anything and they wouldn’t get in trouble. I started to learn about what wasn’t working for them. I heard about the friends they miss seeing because they are going to school mostly over zoom. I got to hear about the obstacles that make learning hard for them. There are so many right now! I got to hear about the things in class they didn’t like doing. I also got to hear from a student that my class just wasn’t working for– “I don’t like school.” This one was a tough one for me to see.
Working on it together
“I don’t like school” is something I have said at different periods of time throughout my academic history. I still say it on occasion about the classes I’m taking. I can really relate to this student. Most of the time, I also didn’t like school. After reading this, I had a moment where I felt down about the comment. But, this student felt confident enough to share this with me. I would have never had said this to one of my teachers. Ever. This student was trying to connect. They wanted to like school. We are working on it together.
Seeing that response in the survey, seeing all the responses over multiple surveys helped me realize that connecting to my students is an ongoing, never-ending process. I may feel like I’m good at it, I may feel connected to them, but there is still so much for me to learn about all of them. Their interests and challenges are always changing! The more often I ask them to share, the more often they do! I need to continue to invite them to share about themselves. Lucky for me, this is a part of teaching that I absolutely love!