As a new teacher, Kyle Schwartz wanted a way to foster a comfortable sense of community in her third grade classroom. So, she asked the students to answer a simple fill-in-the-blank prompt: “I wish my teacher knew _______ .” The results revealed an astounding range of human emotion, from the playful to the poignant: some wrote about deep fears and traumatic family scenarios, while others expressed their hobbies and curiosities. When Schwartz began sharing samples on Twitter in 2015 with the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew, the project went viral, as other educators around the globe started adding their own kids’ contributions to what is now a vast global collection.
With her fifth year of teaching currently underway, Schwartz has found a profound lesson for adults in what was originally intended as a children’s exercise. She explains, “I really want families to know how intentional teachers are about creating a sense of community and creating relationships with kids…Kids don’t learn when they don’t feel safe or valued.” She believes teachers can better benefit their students by more intimately understanding their inner hopes and unseen obstacles, but those true realities are only revealed when students are invited to share. She’s particularly focused on aiding students who live in poverty, like many of those at her Denver, Colorado school. She writes, “There should be outrage that many American children attend schools that lack necessary resources to teach them…We must take action, both inside and outside the classroom, so that the American public education system is worthy of the brilliant students it serves. Harnessing the collective power of the voices of teachers, students, and their families is our best chance of creating the equitable system our country needs.”
Schwartz has transformed her powerful campaign into a book by the same name, I Wish My Teacher Knew. It showcases many of the most meaningful student responses while providing a K-12 guide for teachers, parents, and surrounding communities. You can purchase it on Amazon and check out some of the highlights below.
All images via I Wish My Teacher Knew.
Thanks for the tip, Anne!