What You Don’t Know

One of the most meaningful ways we as educators can engage with Responsive Classroom‘s fifth guiding principle (What we know and believe about our students—individually, culturally, developmentally—informs our expectations, reactions, and attitudes about those students) is to put ourselves in our students’ shoes. In the poem below, Jenni Lee Groegler Pierson imagines what it might be like for a student experiencing the toxic effects of an unstable home environment as well as the ways that student might benefit from the safe, joyful, and engaging classroom community created by the Responsive Classroom approach. To learn more about the effects trauma and toxic stress have on students and ways you can support students dealing with these issues, check out Seeing the Good in Students or join us for the Middle School Advanced Course


What you don’t know is the feeling of dread,

As I listen to screaming and fighting from my bed.

The police at my door they take my parent away,

And now I’m off to school to start my day.

What you don’t know is why I do what I do,

It really is not meant to make life miserable for you.

It’s hard for me to work, I run and I tumble,

No breakfast you know, as my stomach will rumble.

What you don’t know is when you greet me, standing at the door,

It’s the first smile of my day, you see me as more.

You make my classmates say hello to me, too—

l just want to be “normal,” really I do.

What you don’t know is Morning Meeting is the best time of my day,

I feel valued and get this, people want to hear what I have to say!

I enjoy the activities, each poem and song,

During this time, I feel like I actually belong.

What you don’t know is the message gives me a plan for what’s to come,

I’m looking for some structure and you finally give me some.

You helped me to have a few minutes of fun,

Oh how I wish Morning Meeting was never done.

What you don’t know is that your expectations help me to rise,

Keep that bar high and I may really be a surprise.

Too much curriculum, Morning Meeting must go,

Thank goodness you’re not a teacher who believes this is so.

What you don’t know is that you’re changing my life,

A glimmer of hope as I’m a product of strife.

You really know me and I can tell that you care,

You treat us all with kindness and are always fair.

What you don’t know is that you gave me hope,

To help me build strategies and learn to cope.

You’re more than a teacher, you’re an inspiration and a coach,

I’m forever grateful for your Responsive Classroom approach!


Jenni Lee Groegler Pierson is a contributing author for Empowering Educators: A Comprehensive Guide to Teaching Grades 3, 4, 5 and author of multiple Quick Coaching Guides, including Joyful Gatherings and Seeing That Students Belong and Are Significant. 

One Reply to “What You Don’t Know”

  • What an eye opener! The poem says so much that is seldom noticed. This poem does make me reflect on my Responsive Classroom morning meetings .

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