A primary school teacher who wanted to find out more about the pupils her new class gave them a simple writing task to complete – and was moved by the honesty of their responses.
Kyle Schwartz, who teaches eight and nine year olds at a school in Denver in the US state of Colorado, asked her pupils to complete the phrase: "I wish my teacher knew".
A number of the sentences the children submitted were heartbreaking, with many of them struggling with poverty or family problems.
Inspired by how this simple initiative had helped her build a trusting relationship with her pupils, Ms Schwartz started sharing the responses on social media and encouraged other teachers to do the same.
“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework,” wrote one young pupil in a post shared by Ms Schwartz.
“I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my Dad because he got deported to Mexico when I was three years old and I haven’t seen him in six years,” said another.
Others revealed their secret passions and ambitions, such as: “I wish my teacher knew that I want to go to college” and “I wish my teacher knew I love animals and I would do anything for my animals.
“I would love to work at the MSPCA [the US equivalent of the RSPCA] so I could help animals get adopted.”
Ms Schwartz, who has worked as a teacher for five years, has collected the responses of her pupils with those sent to her by other teachers in a recently published book.
According to the New York Times, she wanted to let parents know how important it was for teachers to create a “sense of community” in the classroom and develop relationships with the children they see every day.
“Kids don’t learn when they don’t feel safe or valued,” she told the newspaper.
In the book, titled “I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids”, children share their worries about misunderstandings caused by difficult family situations.
“I wish my teacher knew that sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom isn’t around a lot,” wrote one child.
“I wish my teacher knew that my family and I live in a shelter,” wrote another.
And the eye-opening responses from some pupils revealed difficulties they might not have found the courage to tell their teacher about otherwise.
“I wish my teacher knew that my mom might get diagnosed with cancer this week and I’ve been without a home three different times this year alone,” said one response, which may have been written with a teacher’s help.
Of her students at Doull Elementary School, 92 per cent qualify for free or reduced school meals, Ms Schwartz told ABC News.
“I care deeply about each and every one of my students and I don't want any of them to have to suffer the consequences of living in poverty, which is my main motivation for teaching,“ she told the broadcaster.
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