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As the mom of a neurodiverse kid, with higher-than-average intelligence (but lower-than-average-social-emotional development), I got tears in my eyes when I saw this amazing get-to-know-you product by Christine Weis, elementary teacher, classroom management coach, and creator of the For the Love of Teachers Shop and blog.
So many kids like mine simply want to be understood. And, too often, no one does. Not even their parents! (It was three long years before I learned why my son struggled so much.)
The great thing about the activity below is that it takes almost no time to do, yet it can capture huge insights.
Available for just $1.50 on Teachers Pay Teachers, it’s a set of ready-to-print templates called I Wish Teacher/Students/Classmates Knew.
Weis says she was inspired to create this activity after reading Kyle Schwartz’s I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids. She expanded the concept by adding two more prompts, which also are helpful:
- I wish my students knew…
- I wish my classmates knew…
“There were so many eye-opening concepts in Schwartz’s book,” Weis explains. “It changed the way I view students, with regard to family structure, socioeconomic status, building relationships and – one that made me really do some deep thinking – students dealing with grief. In addition to shining a light on the realities students face, the book showed how asking them this one question can be a game changer for the teacher-student relationship.”
Model it first
In her classroom, Weis always models this activity first by giving each student a unique fact about her (examples in image below). Some facts are about her life now; others are about when she was a kid. Not surprisingly, her students love this, and want to immediately write a fact about themselves to give her in return.
Some responses have been about pets and summer vacation; however, other facts have been about struggles the kids were facing, like parent divorces, financial hardships, and parents who work unusually long hours.
“This is an activity I never skip, especially when we go back to school,” says Weis. “It helps me connect with my students, and I get to hear all of their voices.”
She says you also can leave the cards out all school year. As your students learn they can trust you, there may be additional information they’re comfortable telling you, especially through writing.
How powerful is that?
“If you make this an ongoing means of communication, be sure to provide a private place for them to leave the cards for you, like a mailbox,” she adds.
Teachers, if you have a can’t-live-without tool or method for enhanced communication and trust-building, please tell me. I’m always looking for ideas, especially when they’re inexpensive and easy to implement.