Back To School.…words that inspire excitement, nerves, uncertainty, wonder. Depending upon who you speak to, the feelings will vary. I’m certain our young PreK and Kindergarten students have been excitedly awaiting the first day, when they will line up outside with their class and begin what will be a long adventure at Belmar Elementary School. I’m just as certain that our elementary and middle school students have been calling (maybe texting?) their friends since the long-awaited Homeroom Assignment letter landed in their mailboxes. “Who did you get?” “Does he/she give a lot of homework?” “What are you wearing the first day?” “What do we need the first day?” These are just a few of the things running through our students’ minds. But there are other things our students need to know and, perhaps more importantly, need us to know about them.
Recently, a trending hashtag has gone viral on social media. A 3rd grade teacher in Denver, Colorado wanted to know her students in more important ways than the simple demographic information teachers are given at the beginning of the school year. So, for one of her students’ first assignments, Kyle Schwartz wrote the following statement on the board and asked her students to complete the rest: “I Wish My Teacher Knew___________________.”
What followed were simple statements that gave the teacher powerful insight into the lives of her students and gave voice to asking for what they needed. “I wish my teacher knew reading is really hard for me.” “I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home.” “I wish my teacher knew my reading log is not signed because my mom works late at night.” “I wish my teacher knew I wish I had a friend to play with.”
One simple question changed the way the teacher saw and responded to her students. It allowed her to build stronger, more sensitive relationships with her students and their families and helped to build a learning environment in which students truly felt understood.
This year, the BES Principal’s Book Club will read “I Wish My Teacher Knew” by Kyle Schwartz as a way of continuing to seek opportunities to meet the needs of our learners and to help them feel supported in ways beyond textbooks and assignments. In the hopes of getting to know our students better, I will be collecting voluntary responses in a box outside the office labeled “I Wish My Principal Knew______.” As parents, perhaps our children would welcome the chance to respond to “I Wish My Mom/Dad Knew________.”
As we begin another exciting school year, I wish all of our students the very best and hope this year that they find their voices in letting us know what they need most. #iwishmyteacherknew
Mrs. Lisa Gleason, Principal/Director of Curriculum