Over the last two weeks, an article has been making the rounds regarding a school teacher who got her students talking about things they’d been keeping a secret. This teacher
simply asked her kids to write anonymous notes competing the phrase “I wish my teacher knew.” She received some thought-provoking and some heartbreaking responses, such as “I wish my teacher knew I don’t have a friend to play with me” and “I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my dad.”
The teacher then began tweeting out the student responses, hoping to inspire other teachers to initiate the project in their classroom. Leaving aside the questionable wisdom of tweeting students private thoughts and “confidential” responses, what I do admire about this idea, is that sometimes one just needs to ask to get people talking. It’s amazing the things kids will tell you if provide a safe forum for them and establish a positive relationship.
But students aren’t the only ones with something to say. I wanted to know what families would tell their children's teachers if they were provided a similar safe forum. If you had a way to communicate a message to your kid’s teacher, and know that they would really hear it and not react negatively, what do you wish your child’s teacher knew? I posed this question to fellow YMC bloggers and I received a great response.
Some responses surprised me that such outdated methods are still being used in today’s classroom and I am embarrassed on behalf of my profession.
Responses such as:
When you keep my kid in at recess to finish work, it just makes it harder for him to concentrate the rest of the day.
I wish you guys knew that my son loves to read, but if he has to spend an hour on this reading log and diary EVERY weeknight, and you just keep escalating the difficulty - and he's already beyond grade level - he's going to start hating it. Can't you mix it up a bit? Send some math homework or something for a change.
Too much homework means my 11 year-old has less time to read, which she loves doing, and suggesting she cuts back on after school sports/activities isn't going to happen. Being active is good for her.
I wish you would let my daughter know what your expectations are for her homework. Let her know if her spelling homework (which requires artwork) is not in fact judged on her colour choice, or artistic ability, but rather how well she knows her spelling words.
What's the point of homework anyway?
And speaking of outdated, seriously teachers, can you be a bit more sensitive to the diverse make-ups of families. Not everyone has a mom or dad to dedicate that craft to. Find a way to make things more inclusive in your classroom:
You wouldn't believe how many Mother's Day and Christmas gifts I threw in the creek on the way home. My mother was alive, so it wasn't like the school tortured me over a deceased loved one, but rather she had left the family. Don't assume anything about family structure/dynamics.
I wish that my son’s teachers (preschool/kindergarten) would be more aware of different family make ups, instead of always assuming a traditional Mom-Dad arrangement.
Actually, don’t make assumptions about the students in your class - try really getting to know them instead:
Don't assume a child is a slob because their hair isn't in ponytails (yep; this was spoken to me). Maybe I have a dad who's never used anything more than a tooth comb and doesn't know a hair band from a hole in the ground.
I wish you would take the time to wonder why the kid in the back row is so sullen. Don't assume he's shy. Maybe he has a learning disability and is doing his best to shrink from your view because he's overwhelmed and filled with fear and self-loathing.
There were some great messages I hope teachers are already aware of, but we often need the reminders:
I wish you knew how much it means when you give a student a compliment not on the work itself but on the effort put into it.
I wish you knew that the relationship you have with my child will mean more to him than the quality of your lesson plan.
I wish you could stop bubble wrapping our kids. Let them hang upside down on the monkey bars, play soccer with a "hard" soccer ball and other "risky" behaviour.
(I second this one. I once had teachers tell me that cart-wheels were not allowed at the school because they were dangerous. Really? Cartwheels?)
I wish you knew that I am a working mum. So when you schedule meetings in the middle of the day it makes life really hard for me. And that I can't always be a classroom volunteer or field trip supervisor but that doesn't mean that I don't want to be involved in their education. I'm just struggling to balance it all.
I wish you knew how mean some girls can be. Sending them off to do group work in an area that's minimally supervised like the hallway or a corner of the library can be a recipe for bullying and heartache.
There was a lot of talk about the power of personal communication. Many sang the praises of teachers who took the time to write personal emails outlining expectations, giving updates on kids and just keeping parents in the loop.
And, there were lovely messages that made me feel proud of some of the great work going on in our classrooms:
Wish you knew how much my daughter idolizes you and talks about you all the time.
And for a few of my son's high school teachers: Thanks for being the "cool" teacher. If that's what it takes to connect with a teen brain I'm all for it.
I wish you knew how much we appreciate you incorporating my son (and his friends') interests into your class teachings. It makes him excited to go to school. I wish you knew how safe my daughter feels in your class. I wish you knew how proud my son is when he brings home his "zippy" with all his work each week. I wish you knew how empowering it was for my daughter when you asked her to teach the class how to do one of her art projects.
I wish you knew how much I could never have the patience to do what you do every single day. Thank you.
Families are the number one source of information, support and knowledge on their own students. Parents are the true experts on their kids. Teachers could learn a lot from such feedback. What do you wish your child’s teacher knew?