I wish my teacher knew

By Jennifer Adams
Nursing Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Owens Campus

You may have seen news reports and tweets about third grade teacher Kyle Schwartz who gave her students the writing prompt, “I wish my teacher knew…

Through the prompt (anonymous if the student didn’t want to be identified), Ms. Schwartz learned far more about her students than she had planned. The students shared deeply personal and moving information about themselves. Many shared that they lack schools supplies, or parents, or even friends.

Although her students were only 8 or 9 years old, they seemed to understand the connection between their home lives and their performance in school.

I wondered how adult students might respond to the “I wish my teacher knew” prompt, so I tried it out in my class. Here are some of the responses I received:

I wish my teacher knew…

  • How tough it can be to juggle school family, and work…what/who gets priority when
  • How important it is to me to do well in this class
  • If I don’t come to class it’s not personal, I’m the cheapest daycare I know for my 1 year old
  • How stressed [I get] about those tests because [I] still [have] no clue how to study for them and can’t seem to master the information
  • That I can’t stand living in Delaware and I can’t wait to move
  • That I put in the effort to do well on the test even if my score doesn’t reflect the outcome
  • I took this test with fever and did best I could
  • That I’m really sick today and TERRIFIED I may have done poorly on my exam
  • How hard I try to behave…the struggle is real

Although these responses may not be as poignant as those of the third graders, they made me stop and think about each individual student.

Sometimes it’s hard to recall what it was like being a student—the struggle is real, as one student wrote! I felt more connected to the students—as if our relationship was deepened. Next semester, I plan to give the “I wish my teacher knew” prompt on the first day of class as one technique to build rapport and collaborative relationships as well as guide planning for more student centered learning experiences.

After reading my students’ responses, I immediately wanted to respond with

I wish my students knew…

  • I believe in you and want you to succeed.
  • I think the best of you and want to support you in your learning.
  • I understand you have a lot of competing responsibilities, so I will ask you to do only the most important assignments that support your learning.
  • I will listen to you and try my hardest to be flexible while being fair.
  • I welcome what you have to share because I love learning too.
  • I obsess over your grades—I worry that I’m being too hard or too easy or might be out of touch.
  • I go home every night and think about what I could’ve done better to help you achieve your goals.


  1. Tommy Lu4 years ago

    Well, that’s just open my eyes. Hmmm, let me find out what my students have to say …

  2. Karen Yanovitch4 years ago

    Wow! A great idea for a first class of the semester . . .

  3. Catherine Lombardozzi4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this. It can be easy to jump to conclusions about students, but I try to remember I don’t know what is going on with them. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. And I can totally relate to your list of what you wish students knew!

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  5. Debbie Lloyd4 years ago

    I think that is a great classroom activity and my response to “After reading my students’ responses, I immediately wanted to respond with”. I would offer the suggestion: “Why not?” Why not let the students receive those “What I wish my students knew” responses? — list them on a handout or on the course material on Blackboard, or on the classroom whiteboard. I can only imagine the type of rapport that would evoke.

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