A lesson from a third grade classroom has been making the rounds on social media this week. You’ve probably seen it – little notes in children’s handwriting, simple and powerful statements about students’ lives. Denver, CO teacher Kyle Schwartz, perceiving her students’ life experience to be significantly different from her own, wanted to get an insight into their perspective. So she asked them to finish the sentence “I wish my teacher knew…”
Some of the resulting notes are heart-wrenching – “I wish my teacher knew I miss my Dad because he got deported to Mexico when I was 3 years old.” Some are hopeful – “I wish my teacher knew I want to go to college.” All are eye-opening, and all show facets of those students which their teacher might never have guessed at otherwise.
#IWishMyTeacherKnew, like most social media trending topics, is likely to hold the public’s attention for a few days and then quietly fade away again. But before it does, we should take the opportunity to learn what we can from it. It holds important lessons, not only for teachers, but for parents.
Schwartz shared her students’ notes in hopes that other teachers might emulate the activity, but even without using the lesson plan in their own classrooms, teachers may find this story helpful. It’s an important reminder that students may have problems in their lives of which teachers are unaware, and teachers should remember that students’ lives may be vastly different from their own childhood experiences. It’s hard to connect with someone without understanding them, and for young teachers, understanding the differences between their experiences and their students’ can be a good first step.
For parents, the lesson is twofold. The prevalence of parent-themed messages among the notes shared by Schwartz raises the question – if your child wrote an “I wish my teacher knew” note about you, what would it say? Would it be positive? Would it reveal some problem, major or minor, that your child perceives? And if so, does that perception reflect reality? What could you do to make it better?
And of course, you can use #IWishMyTeacherKnew for more than just reflection – you can use it to engage with your child. If you want to open a dialogue with your child, try asking – what do they wish their parents knew? It may or may not go anywhere – kids are kids, after all – but if it does, you may be surprised by what you find out.