I Wish My Teacher Knew

In order for students to enjoy a rich learning experience, they need to be known by their teachers
1229 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

The I Wish My Teacher Knew strategy is a resource containing the tools teachers need to build a strong foundation for the classroom. It supports teachers to connect with their students on a personal level. When students feel known by their teachers, they are more likely to feel authentically connected to the learning community. Ideally, this strategy would be used in the beginning, middle and end of the school year to begin and maintain a meaningful connection with students.

Implementation Steps

  1. Provide students with the opportunity to share what they wish you knew with you by giving them the following prompt to respond to in writing:

    • "I wish my teacher knew...."

  2. If it helps, let students know that their submissions can be anonymous.

  3. Consider writing and sharing what you wish your teachers knew about you when you were in the grade(s) you teach as a way of modeling for and connecting with your students.

    • You can also extend the lesson to have students share what they wish their classmates knew.

  4. Use the BetterLesson Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CRTL) Lesson Plan Template linked in the resource section below to customize your own What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew lesson plan in a way that is responsive to the needs of your learners.

  5. Make the "I Wish My Teacher Knew" a regular practice in your classroom. Consider creating a "I Need My Teacher to Know" jar (like the photo below) in your classroom in which students can place notes to you about their feelings and experiences that they feel you need to know. 

Extension Activity: Name Story

  1. Watch the Facundo the Great short film (linked in the resources section below), read the To Say the Name is to Begin the Story article, and/or view the Why Uzo Aduba Would Never Change Her Name video linked below to build background knowledge about the activity.

  2. Provide students with an opportunity to share their name stories with you and others. Consider sharing your name story with your students as a way of modeling for and connecting with your students.

  3. Debrief the lessons with your students by asking them questions such as
    • "What were some of your most powerful learning moments during this lesson?"
    • "What was most challenging about this lesson?"
    • "What is something insightful you learned about your peers?"
    • "How will you use that knowledge to foster positive relationships with your peers?"
  4. End with a closing circle (see BetterLesson strategy linked below).

Extension Activities: Where I'm From Poems

  1. Extend the activity by providing students with the time and opportunity to write Where I'm From poems (See resource below). Consider writing and sharing your own Where I'm From poem as a way of modeling for and connecting with your students.
  2. Debrief the lessons with your students by asking them questions such as
    • "What were some of your most powerful learning moments during this lesson?"
    • "What was most challenging about this lesson?"
    • "What is something insightful you learned about your peers?"
    • "How will you use that knowledge to foster positive relationships with your peers?"
  3. End with a closing circle (see BetterLesson strategy linked below).

I Wish My Teacher Knew For Distance Learning

Veronica Freeman
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

In a distance setting, there is greater challenge to creating strong personal connections with students. Using I Wish My Teacher Knew in a distance setting creates a space for relationships and belonging in a distance learning community. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Select a tool where students can share their response to I Wish My Teacher Knew. If you already have a check in or feedback system, consider using this same tool. 

    • In Google Forms, teachers can choose to require the question and whether or not they want the responses to be anonymous. Use the short answer or paragraph option depending on the length or response you are expecting from students. 

    • Voxer creates the opportunity for students to respond through text or by recording their response. This can be sent to the teacher directly.

    • Flipgrid can house all student responses on one grid. If discretion is desired, the teacher can create one grid per student that only the teacher can access and respond to. This creates a rich opportunity for sharing between student and teacher in a central location.

    • Padlet in Shelf mode can be enabled for students and teachers to respond through both video and audio. Anonymity is an option in this format. Similar to Flipgrid, private Padlets can be created for each student, restricting access to only the teacher. 

  2. Establish a schedule or cadence for using the strategy. Some examples are:

    • Every Monday, in order to establish a strong start to the week and share any important information from the weekend. 

    • Every Friday, as a part of weekly reflection. 

    • When returning from a break in learning, in order to re engage and reestablish connections with students.

    • At the conclusion of a unit or key moment of instruction as a part of self-reflection and assessment. 

  3. Set the purpose with students if this is the first time implementing this strategy. In a synchronous setting, share with students that they are loved and important, which is why this is an opportunity to share something that may not feel comfortable saying aloud or in a group. 

    • To modify this for an asynchronous setting, the teacher may record themselves with Loom where they express the importance of each student as a part of the learning community. 

  4. Share the links to the Google Form, Padlet, or Flipgrid with students or send out the "I Wish My Teacher Knew..." prompt through Voxer. 

  5. As a teacher, it would be beneficial to monitor and track responses from students, in order to enrich future conversations and establish strong connections with students. A Google Sheet with each student as a separate sheet can be created from Google Form responses. Similarly, a separate Google Doc can be created for each student where information can be noted. 

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Personalizing instruction through getting to know you activities is a foundational tool teachers can use to better support all students with disabilities to become more engaged participants in their learning. In order to plan effectively to use getting to know you activities to support students with disabilities teachers should consider the following modifications:


  1. Teacher knowledge and acknowledgment of student disabilities is a key way to personalize instruction for them. Before deciding on a specific plan or activity for getting to know their students, teachers should consult with special education department administrators or specialized teachers for information on not only specific disability types and needs present in a classroom, but how students want those needs acknowledged. See "Dear Teacher: Heartfelt Advice from Students" in the resource section below.
  2. Ensure that any handouts used are structured or modified to help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion. See the "Modified Flip Grid Activity" in the resource section below.
  3. Use visual timers and verbal reminders for each part of a getting to know you activity to help students with task initiation and task completion.

  4. Teachers should think carefully about the approach of quality over quantity when helping students with disabilities share information with them and their peers.  For example, a teacher could ask students to only share out three rather than five facts about themselves in order for students with disabilities to have more time to process information.    

  5. If multiple teachers are present, careful thought should be put into co-teaching models and how they integrate into a differentiated I Wish My Teacher Knew lesson plan. See the "How to Choose a Co-teaching Model" and "Differentiation within the Inclusion Model" resources in the resource section below for more information.


EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

This strategy provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to learn more about the diverse backgrounds and experiences of English learners. Teachers are afforded the opportunity to develop a strong learning community that is anchored in a strong understanding of where students are coming from.

English learners need to listen to teacher explanations, read questions, and model responses and write their own responses while engaging in this activity. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Ensure learners understand the directive and anonymity. Make certain learners know what they are meant to be sharing by giving them models from your own life, learners' responses from years past, or teacher-created responses. Consider giving learners categories of topics they may want to share as a guide or brainstorm. Make sure they understand they are free to share personal details through 1:1 or small group check-ins using model responses, that include private information, simply worded explanations, and explicitly pointing out the lack of name requests on their paper. Consider developing a system for learners to hand in their responses in a manner that ensures anonymity like a box or folder. Have learners summarize the directions as a formative assessment of their understanding. See the "I Wish My Teacher Knew Brainstorm Template" in the resource section below.
  2. Provide alternatives to written responses. Give a variety of ways for learners to share with you. Newcomers or learners at lower levels of proficiency may provide deeper responses through speech to text software like that found in Google docs, or through visuals such as drawings or photographs. Accept words, phrases, or chunks in lieu of complete sentences. Consult data about learners’ language level and their language specialist to determine appropriate formats. See the "WIDA Can Do Descriptors" in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Recognize and support cultural differences and/or situational challenges. Some English learners may feel uncomfortable due to cultural mores or family rules that deter sharing personal information. Some learners who have experienced trauma may be hesitant to share details about their lives. Be observant and flexible to learner needs by encouraging the whole class to share only what feels safe and ensuring all learners their responses are anonymous. Consult learners’ language specialist about ways the task may affect some learners. See the "Addressing Student Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression" resource in the resource section below for more information.

Questions to Consider:

When you were a student in the grade(s) you now teach, how well were you known by your teachers? What difference did it make for you as a learner?

Social Justice Standards - Identity

Addressing Identity Standards empowers educators to explore how identity is developed and how it shapes interactions with students. There are opportunities to learn, go deeper, apply and reflect on learnings.

Related Lessons

Explore the "My Name" lesson by 8th grade ELA BetterLesson Master Teacher, Julianne Beebe, to see how her students write a "My Name" poem while reading The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Explore the "Welcome to Biology Class! Getting to Know Each Other Through Poetry" lesson by 9th grade Biology BetterLesson Master Teacher, Maria Laws to see how her students develop "Where I'm From" poems in the beginning of the school year.

Explore the "Where I'm From: Introducing Students to Poetry of Place with Copy Change" lesson by 12th grade ELA BetterLesson Master Teacher Glenda Funk to see how her students write "Where I'm From" poems.

Explore the "It's Opening Day in 8th Grade" lesson by 8th grade BetterLesson Science Master Teacher Lori Knasiak to see her "Who Am I?" graphic organizer.