We tend to think of childhood as easy and breezy, but kids deal with their own stresses and struggles that we know nothing about. One Colorado teacher learned this recently after she gave her students an assignment that turned her classroom into a heartbreaking and inspiring confessional.
According to WLS-TV, Denver teacher Kyle Schwartz was interested in getting to know her third graders -- many of whom come from underprivileged homes -- so she devised an assignment wherein they submit notes to her finishing the sentence, 'I wish my teacher knew...'
"Ninety-two percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch," Schwartz told 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."
Schwartz has been tweeting some of the responses she's gotten using the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew, and they range from hilarious and refreshingly honest to downright sad.
The assignment has basically turned into a little kid version of Post Secret, and Schwartz tweeting the responses has inspired a lot of other teachers to do the same thing. Her Twitter feed is full of retweets of note cards from people who teach fourth graders, middle schoolers, and even high schoolers all over the country.
Schwartz says she's been floored by the responses and feels much closer to her students as a result of the assignment. She gives them the opportunity to remain anonymous, but many of them want to share their stories with their names attached and want their classmates to know what's going on with them.
"Building community in my classroom is a major goal of this lesson," Schwartz, said. "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 is doing a great thing in encouraging her students to speak out about their successes and tribulations. Too often students who are lonely, anxious, bored, or having issues at home are accused of bad behavior and punished. Schwartz is practicing empathy and teaching it to these kids in the process.
We hear a lot of negative things about the education system, but Schwartz and people like her are bright lights who enhance students' lives just by being there. So often, kids just need a champion and someone to validate their experiences. Schwartz seems to be trying to do both, and her students are lucky to have someone like her.