During the first few days of school, Tiger Jeet Singh Public School teacher Michael Marchione had his Grade 6/7 class participate in an activity that gave them the opportunity to share things they would like their teacher to know about them.
Inspired by the book I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz, this activity encourages students to finish the sentence, “I wish my teacher knew…”. This provides students the chance to privately tell their teacher important things about themselves.
“This can result in extremely emotional and personal responses, and so framing the prompt is important,” Marchione says.
He explains the activity is particularly useful because it helps him better understand the stressors students deal with inside and outside of school.
“The things that happen in our lives outside and inside the hours of school are with us daily.”
To complete the activity, Marchione encourages students to answer the sentence starter “with an open heart and open mind.”
“A safe space must be established for this to work, so I often repeat the activity mid-year as well. Examples you could give can range from, ‘I wish my teacher knew I play soccer three times a week,’ to, ‘I wish my teacher knew I have four siblings to take care of after school until my parents get home’. Providing a paper or sticky note, students answer the prompt reflectively in a quiet and safe environment to share as they wish.”
The activity directly connects to the HDSB 2020-2024 Multi-Year Plan
area of focus on Mental Health and Well-Being, Marchione says, noting it also connects the curriculum aspects of citizenship and sense of belonging contained in the Social Studies/History and Geography strands.
“This activity aims to foster a sense of community between the educator and the students. I also hope to gain deeper insight into the lives of the students, regardless of their response. My hope is that this activity demonstrates empathy and understanding as an integral part of the learning community. The fundamental foundation of the Multi-Year Plan is structured around ‘learn, grow and inspire together’. Building a sense of community and acknowledging mental health and wellness lives in this foundation.”
Tiger Jeet PS Principal Janet Reesor supports the ‘I Wish My Teacher Knew’ activity particularly because it aims to develop positive relationships between teacher and student including creating trust.
“Positive relationships between students and staff are the essential foundation for learning. When students feel that their teachers truly see them, hear them and understand them, they can then open up to taking risks in their learning and growth.”
Reesor says she plans to use the activity with her staff as one way to better understand them.
“As an administrator, it also makes me think about how I can use this approach with our large staff, some of whom are new and others who are returning after a long time away. ‘Things I Wish My Admin Team Knew’ is coming soon.”