“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils to do my homework.”
“I wish my teacher knew my parents.”
“I wish my teacher knew I miss my dad.”
Kyle Schwartz, a teacher at Doull Elementary School in Denver, Colorado, found a way to quickly form relationships with her students. She told her third grade students to grab a note card and write down things that “I wish my teacher knew…”
Her class confessions went way past the stereotypical “I wish my teacher knew I don’t like to read.”
She decided to share her findings and posted the student responses on her Twitter with #iwishmyteacherknew.
To learn more, The Eye was able to contact Schwartz and ask her a few questions. Schwartz was eager to share her reasons for the assignment.
Q: What inspired you to do this activity (with your class)? What were you originally trying to accomplish with this assignment?
A: I wanted a way to connect with my students on a deeper level. Teachers are always having conversations about how we can reach out to kids and how we can best meet a student’s needs. Instead of assuming I knew what students needed, I just decided to ask them.
Q: How did it feel knowing your students weren’t afraid to reveal such personal information?
A: It was encouraging to see that the community that we have built in our classroom was so strong, but I also think that children are naturally open and honest. They don’t feel ashamed about asking for what they need or sharing their feelings.
Q: As a teacher, what did you get out of this assignment?
A: I was able to match my students with some resources they needed. For example, I was able to send pencils and books home with students who needed them. I was also able to see how my students develop a strong sense of empathy. They really rallied around each other and supported each other.
Q: How did you feel when you found out other teachers were copying you?
A: Teachers are highly collaborative and are constantly sharing successes in their classrooms. I am thrilled to see that the simple assignment I created has helped students all over the world connect with their students.
As she continued to post pictures of the class responses, she caught the attention of multiple news networks like CBS TV network, Cable News Network (CNN), and ABC TV network.
Her original intention for posting these photos was to bring awareness to how impoverished Doull Elementary is and how much her students need.
According to ProPublica, a newsroom that dabbles in investigative journalism without profit, Doull Elementary School has 28 teachers and almost 500 students. The school is one of three schools in Colorado with less than 3,000 children; 92 percent of the school children qualify for National School Lunch Program, a government program providing children with low-costing or free lunches. A majority of this data was collected in 2011 and, unfortunately, the data hasn’t changed much since then.
Not only did Schwartz bring attention to the poverty of this school, she brought attention to the benefits of forming personal relationships. Being in a safe community is more of a priority than materialistic goods. When a school like this is living below the poverty line, students value their teachers more than usual; familiarity with teachers allows kids to develop their sense of empathy.
Her trend was a complete inspiration. Other teachers followed Schwartz’s path and asked their students to write down things they wish their teacher knew. They posted their own results onto Twitter.
SAS students reacted to the cards written by Schwartz’s students. They were then asked about their own relationships with teachers and whether or not they felt it was a good idea to reveal something so personal.
Focusing on relationships in school is not just for elementary teachers and students. Being able to develop positive relationships with those around you is a skill is essential throughout life, from personal to professional relationships. Psychologists have shown that EQ (emotional quotient) is more important than IQ (intelligence quotient) for lifelong success.
Eight SAS students took the time to fill out their own note cards, revealing what they wished their high school teachers knew.
The advisory program beginning next year takes this focus on relationships seriously. The program’s goal is to encourage SAS students to build relationships with their community. Some students may feel reluctant to embrace the new program because these morning sessions disturb time they may feel could be better used for studying and homework. This reflects the need to create more balance in students’ lives, emphasizing that personal relationships are just as important as their grades.