I know that some of my students come to school hungry because they don’t have enough food. I know that some are scared to go home, and some don’t even have a home to go to at the end of the day. However, after reading the inspiring story of Colorado teacher Kyle Schwartz, I am not so confident in my knowledge.
If you haven’t heard this story, it is amazing. Kyle Schwartz teaches at an elementary school in Denver. One day, she asked her students to finish this sentence: “I wish my teacher knew …” She told them that they could put their names on their responses, or they could leave them anonymous. The responses she got were astonishing. To name a few:
“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have friends to play with me.”
“I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot.”
“I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my dad because he got deported to Mexico when I was 3 years old and I haven’t seen him in six years.”
“I wish my teacher knew my parents.”
“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.”
She took to Twitter, starting the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew, and began posting some of her students’ answers. Soon, teachers around the country began posing the same question to their students, and receiving responses. While some responses are funny (for example, “I wish my teacher knew how to do a back flip”), many confess more serious things.
Whenever I look on Twitter and see educators posting what students wish their teachers knew, I am inspired. I think it’s great that teachers, counselors, and administrators are working to get to know their students at a deeper level. Too often, I see students hiding the negative aspects of their life from peers and adults, for fear of judgment. Sometimes it leads to so much anxiety and stress that it begins to manifest in other ways: outbursts in class, mood swings, physical confrontations, and defiance.
I think as educators, it is so important that we build strong relationships with our kids and make them comfortable enough to talk to us. It will not only make us more informed, but also make us better teachers. Once we know more about a child’s background, we will be able to match our teaching styles to fit with that student’s knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times my relationship with a student changed once they told me something about their background. It was as if a lightbulb went off in my head, and I suddenly knew why I was seeing some of the behaviors I had been seeing all year. It doesn’t explain everything or everyone, but more often than not, it does offer a glimpse into the past that has really helped me out.
After seeing this story, I began to wonder: how well do I actually know my students, the students that I have counseled for the past two years of their lives? I thought I had a really good knowledge of them, but maybe not! One of my classes offered to be my “guinea pigs.” Here are a few of their responses:
“I wish Mrs. Bartels knew that the high heels don’t make her taller than us.”
“I wish my counselor knew that she is like my school mom and that I probably tell her more than I tell my real mom.”
“I wish my counselor knew that I never told anyone else about what we talked about yesterday.”
“I wish my counselor knew I don’t try to be a bad kid, I don’t know why I am, and I wish more people would see that”
“I wish Mrs. Bartels knew that there is a lot of pressure to do stuff with boys, and that I’m scared I’m going to do the same thing.”