(originally written 4/15/15)
As I read through my students’ wishes, similar to many that have been posted via social media’s #whatiwishmyteacherknew, I found myself wanting to make some changes in classroom practices and alterations to methods of teaching. More numerous than the thoughts I had were the emotions I felt. For my students will never be able to understand all the thoughts, ideas, and dreams I have for them. As a sixth grade language arts teacher, I see my approximately 75 students for an hour every day for one school year. Then, poof! They move on to seventh grade. Oh, the things I wish they knew during that short year.
I wish my students knew that I know what it is like to be their age. I understand the struggle for independence, the arguments with a parent, sibling rivalry, balancing homework and after school activities, not making “the cut,” and many other issues of teen life. I understand how these various activities and events can interfere with and distract from requirements of each school day. I have come to school after family drama has left me feeling sad. I have started my morning with a school announcement of a group’s new roster that did not include my name. I have even walked up to a teacher’s desk and handed her a forged parent signature because I was either worried about the grade or just forgot to show my parent the paper (and got caught, too, of course). I wish my students knew that I have walked in many of their shoes throughout my own school career.
I wish my students knew that I know the struggles of my own subject area. Years ago I was struggling with reading myself. I understand what it is like to not want to read out loud. I know how much courage it takes. In the area of writing, many students think that my constructive criticism is another name for expecting perfection. It is such irony for me to think that my students believe I expect perfection. It is me who is often believing I’m not worthy of being their teacher. I wish my students knew that I am not perfect and pray every day that I am doing right by them.
I wish my students knew how much I admire them for being a teenager these days. There are pressures and stresses that exist in society today that just did not play a role to the same extremes in my own school years. My students amaze me as they stand up to the bullies, advocate for their own learning challenges, and discuss self-esteem issues openly. I am grateful every year to have a new group to educate me about their world. I wish my students knew how much I do remember about them individually from year to year.
I wish my students knew that I know they are in pain. I cannot say I know exactly how they feel or what they have experienced, but I wish my students knew that I understand that they have pain. Past or present, I can look into their eyes and read it in their actions. I understand a bad day. I understand needing to be excused. I even understand when a student lashes out. I wish they knew that it is okay, because this will pass. I wish my students knew that their pain is just as important to me as my class lesson.
I wish my students knew how much I worry about what this world will be like by the time they enter it as adults, be it directly after high school or college. I feel that I have now become one of those adults who will have to apologize to my children (which are my students) of this world we are leaving for them. Our world continues to battle over racism, destroy our environment, and there are global tragedies that I wish would not become part of their timeline. Still, I observe my students in the classroom and envision what they are capable of achieving in the future and have hope. I wish my students knew that they have the ability to enter the world after graduation and create colossal change beyond any expectations I have in my classroom.
Most importantly, though, I wish my students knew that I see them. I see them sitting in my classroom quietly. I see them jumping out of their seats, barely able to be still. I see them whether they raise their hands or just blurt out the answer. I see them even hiding behind a book pretending to read even when they do not want to read. And if absent, I wonder where they are and am glad when they arrive back to our classroom the next day. I wish my students knew how important they are to me every single of the year we spend together. What do you wish your students knew?