Kyle Schwartz had a hard time understanding the lives of her students at Denver's Doull Elementary, a mostly Hispanic school where many students are underprivileged, KUSA reports. So the third-grade teacher came up with an assignment called "I Wish My Teacher Knew." It simply required Schwartz's students to write down, anonymously or otherwise, something they wished Schwartz knew about them, ABC News reports. The responses were "heartbreaking," says Schwartz, who has shared some on Twitter using the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew. One student divulged not having pencils at home to do homework; another said "sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot."
Not only has the exercise cemented a bond between Schwartz and her students, but it will hopefully allow Schwartz to point parents and students to resources that can benefit them, she says. "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 notes, adding that all but 8% of the school's students qualify for free or reduced lunch. "Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other." When one student wrote that she had no one to play with at recess, "the rest of the class chimed in and said, 'We got your back,'" Schwartz says. "The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls." Other educators have since adopted the lesson and shared their own students' responses online. (Read about another inspiring teacher.)