“As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students’ lives and how to best support them,” she told ABC News. “I just felt like there was something I didn’t know about my students.”
A few weeks ago she developed a project called “I Wish My Teacher Knew” in which students wrote down something they were keeping a secret. The results were eye-opening.
The students’ notes, often devastating and poignant, gave her an inside look at what her students’ lives are like.
Though Schwartz gave them the option to be anonymous, many wanted to come forward and share their truths with the class, she said.
Doull Elementary has a student body that’s more than 90% Latino, with many of the students coming from underprivileged backgrounds.
Schwartz said 92% qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Some reflected on having a lack of school supplies at home.
Taken aback by the responses, Schwartz posted the notes on Twitter with the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew to encourage other teachers to do the project.
The hashtag quickly went viral and notes from other students around the world started pouring in.
Schwartz told ABC News her goal was “[b]uilding community in my classroom.”
“After one student shared that she had no one to play with at recess, the rest of the class chimed in and said, ‘We got your back,’” she said. “The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls. Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other.”
She added that she hopes her lesson can help her connect students and their families with the proper resources they need to live comfortably. She has also setup a donors page to help her students with future projects.