Teaching is a tough job. You have to deal with the bureaucracy of the school system, create lesson plans, and work under an often-strained budget — all while making sure your students are getting everything they need to become productive, lifelong learners. But figuring out exactly what your students need is typically easier said than done.
For one thing, many students don’t know how to articulate their own needs more generally, much less how to communicate those needs to an adult. This can lead to a teacher-student disconnect, and that ultimately puts students at a disadvantage.
In order to bridge that gap, third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz of Doull Elementary in Denver, Colorado, created a project for her students. The students were asked to write down everything they wished Schwartz knew about their home, school, and social lives. They could submit these confessions anonymously if they chose.
Many of Schwartz’s students come from less privileged backgrounds, and as a new teacher, she says she struggled to understand where they were coming from. Her project allowed her to get closer to their realities so that she could help them get what they needed.
To her surprise, she found that the kids didn’t feel the need to be anonymous, and that they actually enjoyed sharing personal stories with her and their fellow students.
Schwartz also began posting her students’ notes to Twitter under the hashtag IWishMyTeacherKnew. Through the notes, she learned about her students’ needs, both material and otherwise.
Other teachers soon learned about the project and began implementing it themselves, posting their own results. Teachers across the country found it to be a great way to see what their kids really needed. It’s also a safe way for kids to open up about any anxieties they might be feeling about their school and home lives.