Friday, April 17, 2015


There is a viral movement sweeping the Internet right now called #iwishmyteacherknew. You can read all about it here, but the basic story is that a third grade teacher wanted to get to know her students a little better and wanted to actively cultivate an environment of trust in her classroom. It was as simple as a stack of Post-It Notes and a question - What do you wish your teacher knew?

The responses she got were powerful and sometimes heartbreaking. Kids who admitted they didn't have pencils at home to do their homework, feelings of loneliness because they didn't have any friends to play with, struggles with abandonment and missing a father who was deported when the child was a toddler.

What was at first a simple classroom activity has caught fire and exploded into a movement where kids are using the hashtag #whatiwishmyteacherknew to fess up about personal struggles, barriers to their learning, difficult home situations, bullying, and more. It's given adults the opportunity to thank their previous teachers for the impact they had on their lives, whether it was for pushing them to be their best and never settle or that word of encouragement when everyone else had quit. Of course, there are always going to be the exceptions to the rule who jump at the chance to let their chemistry teacher know that they always have lipstick on their teeth, but in general the response to this seems positive and uplifting.

This got me thinking.

What would I have written on that Post-It note if it had been me? I don't remember much of third grade, but as a former middle and high school teacher, I can't help but wonder how powerful it would be to do with that age group. What if it had been me? At certain point, my answers obviously would be much different than others, but the question remains.

What would I have written? Would I have signed it or left it anonymous, a decision that this teacher left up to her students.

Would I have been authentic or would I have been more interested in pleasing my teacher and maintaining my goody-goody reputation? In all honesty, I'm pretty sure I would have chosen the latter. I don't think I would have had the guts to write the brave things:

  • I wish my teacher knew that I try so hard in school because I'm desperate for others to like me.
  • I wish my teacher knew that I barely get any sleep because I work a job after school and then stay up until 3 am doing homework.
  • I wish my teacher knew that I have a bottle of diet pills in my backpack. I swallow those instead of eating because I am so sick of feeling fat.
  • I wish my teacher knew that anything less than perfection feels like failure.

High school is hard, isn't it? But that's a post for another day.

As an adult who actually went into education, my current post would look very different.

  • I wish my teacher knew that what they do matters. It is life-changing, soul-draining, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, awe-inspiring work. You are brave and awesome.

How about you? What is your #whatiwishmyteacherknew moment? 

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