A close-up look at NYC education policy, politics,and the people who have been, are now, or will be affected by these actions and programs. ATR CONNECT assists individuals who suddenly find themselves in the ATR ("Absent Teacher Reserve") pool and are the "new" rubber roomers, people who have been re-assigned from their life and career. A "Rubber Room" is not a place, but a process.
Kyle Schwartz started teaching third grade at Doull Elementary School in
Denver, she wanted to get to know her students better. She asked them to finish
the sentence “I wish my teacher knew.”
responses were eye-opening for Ms. Schwartz. Some children were struggling with
poverty (“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my
homework”); an absent parent (“I wish my teacher knew that sometimes my reading
log is not signed because my mom isn’t around a lot”); and a parent taken away
(“I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my dad because he got deported to
Mexico when I was 3 years old and I haven’t seen him in six years”).
lesson spurred Ms. Schwartz, now entering her fifth teaching year, to really
understand what her students were facing outside the classroom to help them
succeed at school. When she shared the lesson last year with others, it became
a sensation, with the Twitter hashtag “#iwishmyteacherknew” going viral. Other
teachers tried the exercise and had similar insights. Many sent her their
her recently published book, “I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our
Kids,” Ms. Schwartz details how essential it is for teachers and families to be
really want families to know how intentional teachers are about creating a
sense of community and creating relationships with kids,” Ms. Schwartz said.
“Kids don’t learn when they don’t feel safe or valued.”
Molinoff of Washington, D.C., who has two sons, ages 9 and 11, in the public
school system, agreed.
see the teacher as their partner in bringing up their child, and that’s a huge
responsibility that we are putting on our teachers and our schools,” Ms.
Molinoff said. “I always want my sons’ teachers to know what their challenges
are, what they like, just more about them.”
Clayman, a fourth-grade teacher in the Washington public schools, said she has
noticed the same thing from the other side of the desk.
taught over 500 kids so far in my career and parents in every grade want to
know how their child is doing socially and emotionally, often times more so
than whether they can multiply or divide quite yet,” Mrs. Clayman said.
In her book, Ms. Schwartz
writes about mistakes that might have been prevented if she had known her
students better. She had a student named Chris who was obsessed with science.
Ms. Schwartz thought she had done Chris a huge favor by securing a spot for him
in a science-focused summer camp. But she was unaware of the family’s financial
struggles and it turned out that his parents could not afford to take time off
from work to get Chris to camp.
132COMMENTSMs. Schwartz said
classrooms can become a supportive environment for students coping with grief.
She suggests that schools have “grief and loss” inventories for students who
have gone through a crisis, with input from families so that the child’s future
teachers know what that student is dealing with.
“As teachers, we know
parents are the first and best teachers for their children and we want them to
work with us,” she said.