Saturday, July 30, 2016

I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz

"I wish my teacher knew that my family and I live in a shelter." "I wish my teacher knew that I don't have pencils at home to do my homework." "I wish my teacher knew that none of my friends from my last school are like the people I go to school with now." Heartbreaking notes, aren't they? Teacher, and now author, Kyle Schwartz, asked an open-ended question of her third graders. Write, "I wish my teacher knew...", and learned about her mobile students who don't have breakfasts, money for pencils, and live in shelters. Or they wonder about dying because a family member has cancer. When her question went viral, she wrote the book,  I Wish My Teacher Knew, to discuss the state of education today, and what teachers can do about it. I read it because I've been reading to a class of second or third graders for the last three years. And, I see their faces in every sentence in this book.

During the 2012-13 school year, there were 1,258,182 homeless students in American public schools. Or, maybe we should talk about the more than two million American students who are dependents of a military service member, and they move every two to three years. According to Schwartz, and, certainly in the community I live in, roughly 51% of all the children in the public schools live in poverty. The sentence that struck me? "Poverty issues are learning issues."

Schwartz offers a lot of statistics, as you can tell from the above paragraph. But, she offers suggestions for other teachers as well. She focuses on building a community within the classroom, and with the families. In fact, she discusses the variety of families today. She points out the mistakes she's made along the way, quite often from making assumptions as to how her students lived. And, some of her assumptions were so wrong.

The author does include commentary from other teachers. And, her experience is based on teaching third grade. But, many of her ideas may inspire teachers at all levels. And, many of her ideas, and those heartbreaking notes, have inspired me. If I'm invited back to that second or third grade classroom this year, I might look at those children and their wonderful teacher, from a little different angle. Because, even though I had a wonderful family and a great education, I know there are things I Wish My Teacher Knew.

I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz. De Capo Press. 2016. ISBN 9780783219141 (hardcover), 258p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Deb said...

I work in a public high school as an aide in a classroom for special needs students. Prior to this assignment, I had been a library aide in both an elementary and a junior high school. It can't be overemphasized enough how chaotic the lives of many of our young people are. It's hard to focus on learning when you don't know if there will be food in your home over the weekend, or if you have a place to sleep tonight, or if you'll be able to bathe or shower at wherever you are spending the night, or if your parent/grandparent or other adult who has legal responsibility for you will even be at home. These students did not create the world they're forced to live in, but many people (including politicians and those who control school funding) act as if it's the students' fault that their home lives make it impossible to study, to learn, to succeed. I hate to be a pessimist, but I don't see us mustering the political will to work on ameliorating these issues anytime soon.

/Dismounting soapbox now.

Lesa said...

Deb, I agree with you, and I don't find it pessimistic. I find it realistic. And, I only know a smidgeon from what those little ones have told me. I certainly haven't heard or seen what you have. That's OK. Someone needs to be on a soapbox on their behalf.

Marce said...

I'm not from the US but I think this book is worldly. I am very intrigued. Communities are changing and it is hard to know how to be part of the change. Our children do not come from a 'safe, loving' home, how did this change though.

I may be a little heartbroken reading this but such an amazing concept, I will keep it on my Wishlist to decide and if I would share it with teachers.

Lesa said...

Marce, I don't know. But, you're right. It's sad that children no longer come from the type of "safe, loving" home where I grew up. I think you're right. I liked your comment that it's a worldly book. Thank you.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Jackie taught for 28 years and worked another 8 outside the classroom as an administrator/teacher trainer/social studies coordinator (etc.), though still getting paid on a teacher line. She deliberately took the "ordinary" classes rather than the "gifted" and it was always a tremendous source of anger and frustration to her how much more resources went to the well off areas with the more vocal parents rather than the ones who needed it more.

Lesa said...

I'm sure it was a source of anger & frustration. One saving grace. Some of the needier children & classes have some of the most dedicated teachers. I work with that class because the teacher invited me in. I've seen what she does, and how she cares. She's wonderful.

Kyle Schwartz said...

Thank you so much for your for your review of my book! I am so encouraged to see the messages I was trying to convey came across so clearly for you. I know so many dedicated teachers and educators and they are the biggest source of hope for the changes that need to be made in our education system. Every child deserves and excellent education! -Kyle Schwartz