It’s a sad fact that kids in underfunded schools suffer, but studies have shown that grades are lower, lunches are less nutritious, and the government seems like they couldn’t care any less. In Denver, Colorado, the Doull Elementary School has an unusually high amount of students who need government assistance or more help from teachers.
Of their students, 92% of them are eligible for some sort of subsidized lunch price. This is an interesting statistic on it’s own, but Mrs. Kyle Schwartz took the matter to heart. She was curious to know what else her students might be lacking at home. Though, she knew that she might not get an answer if she asked her third graders too directly. She also knew that the children might shy away if they thought they’d have to share the answer to this question with the entire class – so she devised a plan to do it in a way that would allow the kids to feel safe in answering, but so that she could get the answers she wanted.
She created a bulletin board that served as a place for the students to post their answers to the question “What do you wish your teacher knew?” … The students used index cards, sticky notes, and other pieces of paper to scribble their answers. Mrs. Schwartz was ready for some upsetting, sad answers. However, some of them were not what she was not expecting. They caught her off guard as well. While she was aware of the children not getting enough food at home, the answers that they gave her astounded her. They varied a lot from simple worries that a third grader should not have to deal with to reasons that homework and reading logs were incomplete to other problems that were present within the classroom.
One student wrote “I wish my teacher knew that I don’t have any friends to play with me”. Another posted on the bulletin board that “I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot”. A third student answered that “I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework”. While these problems can be somewhat addressed in the classroom – either by introducing the friendless child to other children in the class or by allowing a reading log to be signed late due to these circumstances or another fix- there were other answers to this question that went beyond her ability to help.
One child wrote the heart breaking answer that “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”. Another child posted that “I wish my teacher knew that I worry a lot because my mom is getting sick a lot and was in the hospital last night”. While the last night bit of the note refers to the night before the question was posed, many can relate to the worry of a loved one in the hospital. Other responses included “I want my teacher to know that it feels like the class picks on me. I hate that.” and “I wish that my teacher knew that even though sometimes I do not get good grades that I try. Also that I get stressed a lot but when I come to your class it gets better =)” Yes, emoticon included.
It was a day full of mixed emotions for the teacher, whom felt compelled t help her students as best she can, and in an appropriate manner. Some of the issues brought to light can be worked out within the classroom, but there are apparently some situations at the children’s homes that aren’t as easily fixed. She’s brought her findings to the school board to figure out her next step.