Kyle Schwartz is a third grade teacher at a public school in Denver, CO. She loves to teach poetry to her students, and her life itself is a poem for them because of the ways she cares for them. Last year she wanted to get to know them on the first days of school so she gave each of them a yellow Sticky Noteand asked them to complete the sentence “I wish my teacher knew…” The answers that came back to her were sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, and always honest.
Schwartz shared their responses on Twitter with #iwishmyteacherknew and the Internet was filled with wonder at the simplicity and complexity of their words. Her project helped us remember that our children are more than grades, more than reading levels, and more than numbers on standardized tests. They are human beings with feet not of iron but of clay, with hearts not of stone but of flesh, and with minds not of computer chips but of hope and imagination. They are not gang bangers to be arrested, illegal aliens to be deported, problems to be solved, diseases to be cured, or trash to be thrown away. They are human beings.
I loved her project and decided to follow in her footsteps. So at the beginning of this school year I gave my 4th graders a sheet of copy paper with #iwishmyteacherknew across the top and said, “Write and draw something about yourselves that you want me to know about you.” And my students showed me their humanity.
Here are some of their responses and my comments to them:
“I wish my teacher knew that he is the best teacher.”
Ha ha. I hope you feel the same way about me on day one hundred eighty of school as on day one!
“I wish my teacher knew that I have to do chores from the time I get home until I go to bed.”
Nice try pal. You still have to do your math homework and read for twenty minutes each day.
“I wish my teacher knew that my Dad he is in jail and he got in jail when I haved 3 years and now I have not seen him in 7 years.”
Sweet child, as a part of your drawing you made a poster of MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech. How can I help keep your dreams alive while you’re carrying this sadness inside of you? I’ll try my best!
“I wish my teacher knew that I can’t have a fish because a cat gets in the house and eats the fish! That happened when I lived at my old house. So because of that I can’t have a fish!”
You have such an honest voice. Remember when you were sleepy yesterday and I asked you if you went to bed early enough and you answered me that your Mom is sick and you have to wake up through the night to take care of her? Thanks for being real.
It’s all about being real.
What if I as a teacher finish the statement “I wish my students knew…”?
Let me try.
“I wish my students knew that my favorite Latin phrase is “esse quam videri,” which means “to be, rather than to seem.” To be is more important than to appear to be, the essence is more important than the video, the voice is more important than the auto tune, and you are more important than anyone’s opinion of you. I see you. I believe in you. I care about you.”
What about you?
If you use Twitter, would you do a favor for me? Mention me @teachandwrite and use #iwishmystudentsknew and finish the sentence “I wish my students knew…” Maybe you are a teacher with students in your classroom. Maybe you are a Mom who sends your children to school each day to be students. Maybe you are a Grandpa who listens to the stories of your grandchildren/students when they get home from school. Maybe you are someone who hopes to say something to our studentswho wake up each morning and go courageously to school to learn to make a better world for themselves and for all of us.
What would you like to say to them? How would you like to be a poem for them?
I’d like to know.