The "What I Wish My Teacher Knew" storytelling assignment is a powerful movement, especially in the world we are living in now. It allows children of all ages to open up more and to share things they may not have said before - things they don’t feel comfortable communicating with words.
It’s a worldwide phenomenon and has been floating around the teacher community for many years - an "I Wish My Teacher Knew" post box. A quick Google will bring up books, digital downloads, box labels and even no prep student forms ready to print, so it’s been around for quite some time.
However, last week Irish school teacher Rachel Scollard shared an image of her "What I Wish My Teacher Knew” box on her Instagram account. It blew up with parents and teachers alike praising her efforts and enthusiasm as the kids settle in after a long six months off school, and we all want one in our kid’s classrooms now.
In her social post, the Educate Together teacher said she started by getting her second and third class students to write in their wellbeing journals. This is a copy they use to promote positive mental health, and the response has sparked conversations with her students, highlighting things she would have never known before.
Some of the notes shared by her second and third class students would shatter your heart, speaking of things that young kids should never have to experience. Others sent clear messages to their teacher on things they would like to change in their classroom and school.
One student wrote that they wished her teacher knew that they lost two baby siblings. Not something that you would talk about every day, but still something that is obviously playing in the back of their mind.
Another requested help by letting her know they wanted to improve both their maths and spelling skills, while a second pupil asked for assistance with maths as they felt like they were struggling.
Another member of her class took a different approach, asking could they play a game of rounders next time they did PE, a question they may not have been brave enough to ask in front of twenty or more of their peers. A separate asked for a pet hamster for the classroom.
Speaking up for yourself in class can be challenging for some children, and in my case it certainly way, twenty-odd years ago now. I always had a fear of feeling judged, that my words might be misconstructed or misunderstood. Even now in my thirties, I lack confidence, some might say a little anxious too, but that’s who I am.
Thinking back now, I know if one of these little boxes had been in my classroom when I was in primary school, my experience could have been a whole lot different, and I’m sure many parents can relate too. Let’s hope more of them pop up in classrooms this year. Bualadh bos Ms. Scollard.