It all began last year as a way for 3rd-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz to get to know her students a little better.
“As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students’ lives and how to best support them,” she said. “I just felt like there was something I didn’t know about my students.”
Schwartz works at Denver’s Doull Elementary, where many students come from underprivileged backgrounds with 92% qualifying for a free or reduced lunch.
So she developed a class project called “I Wish My Teacher Knew,” inviting her students to finish the sentence with an anonymous confession.
“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have friend to play with me.”
The results were surprising and sometimes heartbreakingly honest.
I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot.”
Her findings were shared widely on the Internet and the Twitter hashtag “#iwishmyteacherknew” went viral as other teachers followed suit and asked their students the same question before sharing the results with Kyle.
“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.”
It took off so much that she published a book, I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids, in which Schwartz details how essential it is for teachers and families to be partners.
“I wish my teacher knew my mom might get diagnosed with cancer this week and I’ve been without a home three different times this year alone.”
“I really want families to know how intentional teachers are about creating a sense of community and creating relationships with kids,” Schwartz said. “Kids don’t learn when they don’t feel safe or valued.”
“I wish my teacher knew that I don’t like it when she notices that other students are on task but when I’m on task she doesn’t notice me.”
Here are a few more of the notes that inspired the book.
“I wish my teacher knew how to do a backflip.”
“I have arthritis (juvenile) and sometimes I can’t do everything like the other kids. Anyways, I tend to not let that stop me from things.”
But they don’t always have a stable situation.
“I wish my teacher knew that my mom got divorced three times.”
“I wish my teacher knew that my little brother gets scared and I get worried about getting up every night.”
“I wish my teacher knew my brother is sleeping so hard that he is breathing to (sic) hard and loud that I cannot sleep.”
They have big dreams.
“I wish my teacher knew that I love animals and I would do anything for my animals. I would love to work at the MSPCA so I could help animals get adopted.”
It’s hard, but they try.
“I wish my teacher knew that even though sometimes I do not get good grades that I try. Also that I get stressed but when I come to your class I feel better.”
They make it all worthwhile.
“I wish my teacher knew that I’m very proud of her because she never gives up on us and keeps on being a great teacher and I appreciate that. Thank you.”
“I think it caught on so fast because teachers are highly collaborative and freely share and explore resources,” Schwartz said.
In the end, all teachers want to support their students,” she continued, “and #iwishmyteacherknew is a simple and powerful way to do that.”
For more information on the book, be sure to check out the website.