What if you could discover your students’ innermost thoughts, dreams, worries, and hopes, and use them to create an emotionally-safe classroom? Third-grade teacher, Kyle Schwartz, gives us these insights in her book, I Wish My Teacher Knew (Hachette Go, 2021).

Twenty-five years ago, as I was earning my K-12 music teaching credential, the importance of the student-teacher relationship was not emphasized. Tricks for classroom management, methodical teaching techniques, and resulting products were king. I was not encouraged to learn why a student may be having difficulties, such as the ones the author describes herself as having. “I realize now that I never reached out to my teachers,” writes Schwartz. “I wish my teachers had known my bad behavior and bravado were a result of feeling like I didn’t belong.”

Schwartz used her own early challenges in school to create the exercise that has become an educational phenomenon. She wants to provide a path for students to reach out to their teachers to bridge the gap that she wished had not existed for her.

If you could summarize I Wish My Teacher Knew in two words, it would be this: relationships matter.

Since she posted this activity online, she’s shared her insighs with an international community. Check out Schwartz’s TedTalk here or read the posts on #Iwishmyteacherknew on Instagram here. In the book, Schwartz gives many examples of responses that she and other teachers have received from their students, although I would have liked to have seen more. The words from the students themselves are so poignant.

Some are complimentary, well-earned odes to their fa...


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