I read the note cards and my heart sank; the what I wish my teacher knew note cards coming from a 3rd grade classroom that spoke of lives so much harder than that of my own children. Of wishes that seem so basic yet mean so much to the life of a child; a pencil, a friend, a parent. After spending many hours thinking about it while gardening, I realized that my heart is sad that these are the stories of those children and so many others. And even sadder that, as Rafranz Davis pointed out, no concern has been given to the privacy of the parents of those children or what the full story is behind the note cards, yet what upset me the most was how surprised people are that kids may have these stories to share. That these are the things they wish their teachers knew.
So what I wish America knew is that when we speak of children living in poverty, children whose families have split apart, or children who have no friends, we are not speaking about children in other countries. We are not speaking of some kids that live somewhere, but children that are in our communities, attending our schools.
What I wish America knew is that when poverty comes out as the biggest cause of educational failure the researchers are not joking. They have not made up the data that says that poverty is one of the biggest inhibitors for any child to be successful in life.
What I wish America knew is that we should be ashamed that we live in one of the world’s richest countries, yet we have 30 million children living in poverty
What I wish America knew is that none of those note cards should have been startling. We have kids with lives that we cannot even fathom residing in our classrooms every day. Why are we so surprised? We seem to forget the stories of the children we teach when we leave our classrooms. At least we bear witness, it is a lot harder to pretend that poverty, loneliness, or broken apart families do not destroy lives when you aren’t faced with it every single day. Trying to pick up the pieces and help a child find success.
In the end, the prompt has spurned on so many to ask their students what they wish their teachers knew, yet I wonder where the bigger story is. Are we in an educational time where the mad rush for covering content so deeply, testing so much, and always pushing kids to do more, be more, dream more, that we have no time to speak to our students? That building community and really getting to know the kids we are lucky enough to teach is something we simply don’t have time for anymore? So I wish America knew that we only get one chance to raise these kids. And even if a kid is not ours, we all share the responsibility for trying to help them find a better life and help them pursue their dream. That is what I wish we all knew.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.