Try to think about what it was like being a child. Were you ever afraid? Happy? Anxious? Did you ever want to tell your teacher a secret, but felt small and insignificant? Were you afraid of looking vulnerable in front of the only adult you spent more time with than your parents?
Schwartz is a third-grade teacher in Denver, Colo., where 96 percent of students live below the poverty line. Many of those students are going through hardships they generally don’t share with peers or teachers, but with Schwartz’s encouragement, they wrote down their feelings on colorful pieces of paper.
Schwartz shared the students’ notes on Twitter last month, and the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew quickly went viral.
Students were able to submit their answers anonymously or sign their names and share their notes with the class, Schwartz explained to ABC News. By sharing their stories with the teacher and with each other, students could have a better understanding of what their peers were going through. Schwartz also hoped the project would give those students that might not have anyone to play with the opportunity to make a new friend.
Schwartz’s unique feedback technique has inspired teachers and parents around the world to ask students what they wish their teacher knew.
Students in Schwartz’s classroom are now at the epicenter of a growing movement to encourage kids to engage with their teachers. They've also directly inspired a community fundraising campaign. Schwartz has set up a DonorsChoose campaign in order to help teach her class financial literacy and secure funds to help out her students with disabilities.
#IWishMyTeacherKnew is an exercise in empathy, and a reminder that between recess and math homework, kids are experiencing hidden difficulties just as much as we are. Sometimes, it feels good to share them.
Photo via guilherme jofili/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)