Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.
-Attributed to Paul Ryan
I stumbled upon this article via Facebook today, and it is so powerful, beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time that I felt it had to be shared.
Colorado Teacher Shares Heartbreaking Notes From Third Graders
Kyle Schwartz teaches third grade at Doull Elementary in Denver.
Schwartz encourages other teachers to use the same lesson in their classrooms. Although she says her students are a pleasure to look after, the educator of three years adds that many of them come from underprivileged homes.
“Ninety-two percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Schwartz tells ABC News. “As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students’ lives and how to best support them. I just felt like there was something I didn’t know about my students.”
In a bid to build trust between her and her students, Schwartz thought up a lesson plan called “I Wish My Teacher Knew.”
For the activity, Schwartz’s third graders jot down a thought for their teacher, sharing something they’d like her to know about them.
“I let students determine if they would like to answer anonymously,” she says. “I have found that most students are not only willing to include their name, but also enjoy sharing with the class. Even when what my students are sharing is sensitive in nature, most students want their classmates to know.
“Some notes are heartbreaking like the first #iwishmyteacherknew tweet which read, ‘I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.’ I care deeply about each and every one of my students and I don’t want any of them to have to suffer the consequences of living in poverty, which is my main motivation for teaching.”
Blown away by her class’ honesty, Schwartz shared some of the notes on Twitter using the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew, encouraging fellow teachers to employ the same lesson with their own students.
The tweets and photos of notes from other schools came pouring in from around the world.
“I think it caught on so fast because teachers are highly collaborative and freely share and explore resources,” Schwartz says. “In the end, all teachers want to support their students, and #iwishmyteacherknew is a simple and powerful way to do that.
“Building community in my classroom is a major goal of this lesson. After one student shared that she had no one to play with at recess, the rest of the class chimed in and said, ‘we got your back.’ The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls. Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other.”
Schwartz says she also hopes her lesson can help her connect students and their families with the proper resources they need to live comfortably.
The lesson here is about trust and community, and building strong relationships between students and between the students and the teacher. There is so much potential for interpersonal learning in this simple movement, powerful relationships can be built on the back of this. Of course, there are going to need to be ground rules about how students react, with some silliness, but if you have a strong relationship with your class already, this could help to solidify it even further.
I encourage you to not just read this article, or the original source article that I have copied into this article, do not just look at the #iwishmyteacherknew search results on twitter. Share it with your friends, your colleagues. share it with your students and ask them if they would like to do the lesson together.
It may change the dynamic of your class, and it may take a dysfunctional class and help to sync it together. Those unruly students, the ones who are rebelling against life because they feel that no-one is in their corner? This could potentially turn them around when they see how you and their peers react and become supportive after there is a more general awareness.
I would love to hear from anyone who plans on doing this, and how you implemented it. As always, thank you for reading.