doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Back To School Letters

There have been some interesting thoughts about the construction “Back to School” letters recently.  I never did one personally but, as a department head, had input on the school message welcoming students back for a new academic year.  It was an interesting experience being in a room with the other heads trying to create a common message.  The principal had the ultimate edit job and, now that I try to remember, I don’t think that I ever saw the final message!  I know what the entire collective wanted and we certainly were not on the same page…

Recently, there have been some thoughts from folks that I’ve read with interest and tucked into my Diigo account.  I thought it might be interesting to pull them all together in a blog post.

Will Richardson wrote the post “First Chance to Make a Learning Impression“.  Like many of Will’s posts, he turns it personal and talks about a back to school packet.  25 pages in length!  Wow, that’s some serious paper when you consider multiplying that by the number of students in a school!  As an experiment, Will started looking through the package and found that learning appeared deep in the there – right neat the end.

Gary Stager dug into his archives to produce an article that he had written for District Administration back in 2004.  The article was about One-sided Parent Contacts and he offered up a list of promises that a school should make to parents about the upcoming year.  It’s a great list and I really like the commitment to the arts.  Sadly, the comments about labelling and depersonalizing students was a foreshadowing of things to come.  Have we met this one in all classrooms? “A modern functioning computer will be available whenever a child needs one

On the Blue Skunk blog, Doug Johnson dug into his own archives inspired by the two posts above and shared a “Back to School” post from a school library perspective.  Goodness knows that there can be so many rules surrounding a library!  In the post, he offers a suggestions as to what a letter “could” be – outlining all of the rules and “thou shalts” that I think everyone knows anyway.  Instead, he suggests, why not communicate with the parents indicating all of the great things that can happen when a good teacher-librarian partners with great resources, great teachers, great students, and supportive parents.

Finally, there’s nothing more comforting as a parent, or as a student, to know that the teacher who will be so much of a child’s life in the next year takes the time to let you know that they are ready to value your presence in the classroom.  In her latest post, Angela Maiers offers two exemplars of letters that all students should receive.  She remains true to her message that “You Matter” and that there is genius in everyone just waiting to be awakened.  I can’t help but think that any student would be excited to receive a message like this.  I’m thinking, in particular, of a student who might have had a challenge or two in the past academic year.  Here’s a message that your new teacher is ready and willing to let you start from scratch to be successful.

Hats off to all three of these authors.  In their own ways, they’re suggesting a welcoming, open school and classroom where every student is welcome and encouraged to take advantage of all that’s to offer for a successful school year.  Who wouldn’t want that?

If you or your school sends home a “welcome to school” message or even if you’re looking to send home something on the first day or post on your class blog / wiki, absolutely read these four posts for inspiration.  Share them with your colleagues, heads, administration.  Expressed positively, isn’t this the place where you want students to be for the next year?


One response to “Back To School Letters”

  1. […] There have been some interesting thoughts about the construction "Back to School" letters recently. I never did one personally but, as a department head, had input on the school message welcoming …  […]


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