Transform Your Classroom With I Wish My Teacher Knew Activity

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As you likely know, fostering a deep connection with your students can be a transformative experience. One remarkable activity that has had a profound impact on both teachers and students is the “I Wish My Teacher Knew” activity. Having implemented this activity in my own classroom, I can confidently say that it has revolutionized my teaching and, I hope, the lives of my students. Through this activity, you’ll gain unique insights into your students’ lives, see them in a different light, and convey your genuine care for them.

Inspiration Behind the Activity:

The “I Wish My Teacher Knew” activity was born from the creative mind of a teacher who later authored the book, I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by Kyle Schwartz. This versatile activity can be adapted for various age groups, but I recommend it for students ranging from 4th to 10th grade.

The Process:

The heart of this activity is a Google Slides presentation that guides you through the entire process. It starts by acknowledging that life events can impact students’ daily lives and highlights the importance of teachers knowing about these experiences. The ultimate goal is to deepen your connection with your students, making them feel truly seen and cared for.

Real-Life Examples:

To illustrate the power of this activity, consider these real-life examples from students who participated:

“I wish my teacher knew that I love animals and would do anything to help them. I volunteer at the animal shelter on weekends.”

7th Grade Student

This insight opens up avenues for connection. It may spark ideas for writing exercises or provide a genuine conversation starter about the student’s experiences at the animal shelter.

“I wish my teacher knew that right now we are living in a shelter.”

5th Grade Student

This revelation demands immediate attention. As a teacher, you can privately check in with the student to offer support and empathy. Additionally, sharing this information with the school counselor and other teachers ensures a comprehensive support system for the student.

Setting Expectations:

Transparency is key. Before students begin sharing what they want you to know, it’s crucial to communicate your intent clearly. A way to do that is let them know that your aim is to understand them better so you can provide the best support possible. Encourage students to share positive aspects of their lives as well, like making a sports team. This ensures a balanced perspective on their experiences.

The Activity:

After sharing the examples, you should decide how students will respond. You can decide which of the four ways your students will respond:

  1. Paper/Pencil: Students write their responses on paper, ensuring they include their names on the paper.
  2. Google Slide: Students complete the slide electronically and submit it (Slide 15 of the Google Slides presentation).
  3. Google Form: Students complete a Google Form, a copy of which is provided in this product (Slide 16 of the Google Slides presentation).
  4. Pear Deck: Students complete the slide via PearDeck, and you download the Takeaways*. (*Note: You must be a Premium PearDeck subscriber to use this option; Slide 17 of the Google Slides presentation.)

After you have collected this invaluable information from your students, the truly important work begins.

Organizing and Using the Information:

  1. Print and Color Code: Regardless of the method used, print out the results. You can add a color code and then sort by color in Google Sheets if you used the Google Form.
  2. Gather Highlighters: Prepare three highlighters – pink, orange, and green.
  3. Assign Colors: Assign each color a specific meaning:
  • Pink:
    • Very urgent response needed
    • Student requires immediate action/support from you or another staff member/s
    • Example of a pink issue: “My family and I are living in a shelter.”
  • Orange:
    • Important, but not urgent issue
    • Student issue may be addressed in a private conversation
    • Example of an orange issue: “I’m worried about this winter because I don’t have a warm coat. We just moved from Florida.”
  • Green:
    • Student is currently okay and doesn’t need immediate support
    • Not an urgent issue, but a positive share
    • Use this information to connect with the student
    • Example of a green issue: “I just got a new puppy and we named her Daisy.” This is a topic that can be discussed publicly: “Hey, how’s Daisy doing now?”
  1. Highlight Responses: Go through the documents and highlight each student’s name with the corresponding color.
  2. Sort by Color: Sort the students by the highlighter color:
    • Put the “pink students” in order of urgency.
    • Put the “orange students” in order of urgency.
  3. Create an Action List: Develop an action list to address the students whose issues require immediate responses. These actions could range from simple classroom accommodations to private meetings or involving other support staff.
  4. Private Meetings: Have quick, private meetings with pink and orange students so they know they are heard. Many issues marked with orange can often be resolved during this brief interaction.

Key Considerations:

  • Privacy: Keep these papers and the information contained within them private and share only with those who need to know.
  • Mandatory Reporting: As a teacher, you are a mandatory reporter. If students report something that falls under this category, you must report it. (In all my years of implementing this exercise I have not had to report once, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to. Something to be aware of. )
  • Ongoing Support: Hold on to these papers and set a date on your calendar to periodically check in with those “pink students.” Continued support is essential.
  • Spread Out the Activity: If you are not a self-contained teacher, consider spreading out the dates when you conduct this activity. Doing it with all 150-180 students at once can be overwhelming.

Timing and Frequency:

It is recommended to conduct this exercise about a month after the school year starts when your students have had the opportunity to build trust with you. Additionally, consider implementing this activity twice a year because circumstances can change.

In conclusion, the “I Wish My Teacher Knew” activity is a profoundly impactful tool that allows you to truly understand your students and their lives. It has the potential to transform your teaching and, most importantly, the lives of your students. Remember, you do not have to purchase this resource to implement the activity; it is designed to make the process more straightforward, but the essential component is your dedication to fostering a supportive and empathetic classroom environment. Consider adding this activity to your teaching toolkit and watch as it strengthens your connection with your students.

Download now HERE from my website store, or HERE from my TPT store.

I’d love to hear how it goes for you! Please let me know!