I Wish My Teacher Knew
In April 2015, Kyle Schwartz, a teacher at the Doull Elementary School in Denver, Colorado, asked her third grade class to complete a writing assignment entitled "I Wish My Teacher Knew" where they were asked to share something about themselves. Schwartz, aged 26, describes herself as "a suburban girl" and said she created the assignment because she "struggled to understand the reality of my students' lives and how to best support them." She explained that most of her students come from underprivileged (mostly Hispanic) households – 92% qualify for free or reduced cost lunches – and thus she could not easily relate to what they went through in their daily lives. Schwartz has taught at Doull for three years and has done the assignment each year.
Schwartz said the assignment was designed to build trust and a sense of community within the classroom. The children were given the option of writing anonymously, although most of the students expressed a desire to share their story with the class. The other children in the class rallied around each other in "really beautiful" moments as they shared their stories. A girl who reported she had no friends to play with at recess inspired "all the girls [to huddle] around her and [play] tag" the next day.
Schwartz, describing the answers as "heartbreaking", decided to share some of them via Twitter using the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew. She received an immediate response and other teachers and schools started using the hashtag to share their own teaching experiences. As a result, the tag trended nationally in the United States. Among the most commented on notes were one by a girl whose father had been deported to Mexico and one by a girl with no friends.
The story was picked up by national newspapers and even international sources such as The Sydney Morning Herald. Doull Elementary received numerous donations of school supplies for its students due to answers such as "I Wish My Teacher Knew I don't have pencils to do my homework." The story was featured nationally on ABC World News Tonight, which reported that Schwartz had started a "movement" with teachers across the country copying her assignment to learn more about their own students.
Schwartz has also written a book about the I Wish My Teacher Knew program, I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids, published in July 2016 by Da Capo Lifelong Books.
- Elissa Salamy (April 17, 2015). "Kyle Schwartz's #IWishMyTeacherKnew lesson plan becomes heartbreaking viral sensation". Newsday. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Keith Coffman (April 19, 2016). "'I wish my teacher knew': Teacher's third grade assignment goes viral online". The Sydney Morning Herald. Reuters. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Nicole Pelletiere (April 16, 2015). "Colorado Teacher Shares Heartbreaking Notes From Third Graders". Good Morning America. ABC News. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Third-Grade Teacher Starts a Movement That Spreads Across America. ABC World News Tonight. April 22, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- de la Cruz, Donna (August 31, 2016). "What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew". New York Times.
- Schwartz, Kyle (July 2016). I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids. Da Capo Lifelong Books. ISBN 978-0-7382-1914-1.