At first, Kyle Schwartz, 28, simply wanted to get to know her third-grade students better. She gave them an assignment called, “I Wish My Teacher Knew…” The idea of this lesson was to build trust with her students. However, she was not prepared for the responses she received.
The things the children wrote were so eye-opening, she shared some of them on Twitter, using #IWishMyTeacherKnew on March 27. The student’s responses were “honest and vulnerable” Schwartz said. Students were given the opportunity to keep their responses anonymous and most of the students chose to do so.
Students said things about their home lives such as, not having pencils at home, assignments not signed because Mom is not often home. Other students talked about how much they enjoyed learning and their aspirations to go to college.
Child poverty is never more than ten minutes away from anywhere in Denver. Schwartz teaches at Denver’s Doull Elementary School. 90 percent of the students at Doull receive reduced or free lunch.
Schwartz’s Twitter sharing encouraged other teachers to follow her lead and share the idea with other teachers, and the sharing still continues. The #IWishMyTeacherKnew has become a powerful classroom tool for teachers everywhere. She wants to benefit schools that are struggling with child poverty. She said she has gotten a lot of positive support to take action, and people are asking how they can help who are not teachers.
She is encouraging supporters to put together book harvests by bringing books to school that their children have outgrown. This way the books get used by the children who need them and will appreciate them.
Before Schwartz became a teacher, she spent a year with AmeriCorps’ City Year, in Washington D.C. Part of the focus of City Year is education and working with schools. She had not planned on becoming a teacher until she was tutoring a student named, Kevin, that was excited every day to come to tutoring. His attitude about school made all the difference to her.
The lesson “I Wish My Teacher Knew…” has taught her more about being an effective teacher. She said she understands the importance of building community within the classroom. She also talked about the empowerment of giving children a voice by listening to what is important to the students.
If you are interested in supporting Schwartz’s classroom in Denver, Colorado, go to her page on DonorsChoose.org. You can also contact Anna Gauldin 303-954-1666. You can also reach out to school districts in your own area to see how you can help children and families be successful in the classroom.
Some more of the responses given by the third-grade students:
- I don’t have a friend to play with – classmates told this student they had their back, and they did
- I want to read more lunch lady books
- My brother sleeps too hard and breathes too hard and I can’t sleep
- My parents
- Vietnamese because then she can say words that I forget
- How much I miss my dad because he got deported
Teaching students about their own power to benefit others is another powerful lesson that has come from this classroom exercise. Just by being a friend to someone, playing with them at recess can make all the difference in one child’s life.
Schwartz wants to do as much as she can for her students and their families. She wants them to be strong learners who know they can change their circumstances through education. It all starter with a simple question, “I wish my teacher knew…”
By Jeanette Smith
Photo courtesy of Carol VanHook – Flickr License