From the first grade onward, we start spending the same amount of time at school as we do at our homes. Essentially, our school becomes our second home. It’s a given that our educators over the years play a major roles in our lives. Initially, being a teacher meant simply teaching math or science, but over time, that job description has changed. Now, teachers not only facilitate learning, but also shape our perspective of the world and sometimes serve as a role model for children to follow.
Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher at Denver’s Doull Elementary School is a stellar example of an educator who went above and beyond to create a personal connection between herself and her students. Schwartz noted that several of her students came from disadvantaged homes, telling ABC News, “92 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch.” Keeping in mind the adverse conditions that many of her students faced, Schwartz wanted to create a lesson plan that would help her to understand the problems the children carry with them to school.
Hence, Schwartz created “I Wish My Teacher Knew” in an attempt to let her students know that she is always there for them, in more ways than just the typical definition of “teacher.” The lesson plan was simple — children can anonymously write down anything they want their teacher to know. The results of her lesson plan yielded some extremely heartbreaking notes. “I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot” and “I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework” are just a few examples of the unfortunate experiences these children have to deal with at a young age.
In my opinion, a lesson plan such as this one is extremely poignant. By adopting this type of in-class exercise, teachers worldwide can truly create a bond of trust and confidence among themselves and their students. It is absolutely critical for educators to let children facing such intense experiences know that they are not alone. Living in a household where a parent isn’t around due to whatever reason can evoke feelings of loneliness and translate into poor behavior at school. “I Wish My Teacher Knew” has a straightforward premise, but the use of such a lesson plan can and has resulted in benefits not only for the teacher, but also for the students themselves. Another student in Schwartz’ class wrote, “I wish my teacher knew I don’t have [a] friend to play with me.” Although Schwartz mentioned that the notes could be anonymous, the children did not feel the need to hide under inconspicuousness. This particular child’s note was shared with the class, and the next day, a group of girls invited the student to play with them at recess.
Schwartz shared the notes that came out of her lesson plan on Twitter, and she created a movement, urging teachers everywhere to conduct similar activities in their classes. Children are highly impressionable, and having to face adverse conditions can make them pessimistic. However, knowing that they have a supportive teacher at school who will go out of his or her way to make their life as comfortable as possible will certainly create an excellent learning experience.
Schwartz is truly an inspiration – she lent an ear to all dilemmas big or small, became a shoulder to cry on and convinced her students that she was there for them regardless of the situations they were undergoing. Teachers truly hold the power to make a child’s life several times better, and it is best that they realize their ability to be a hero in their students’ mind.