Although I have asked you to write a letter to me on the first day of school, I am in fact writing this letter to you on Tuesday, Aug. 19 – about a week before I will see you all, and late at night from the deck of my family’s beach cottage in Old Saybrook. There’s a nice breeze in the air tonight. That, and the crickets, are making it quite clear that summer is over. And, as great as summer is, I am okay with that. I have had a great and wonderful summer. But, like all things, it ends. And, thankfully, I am ready for that.
So, that brings us to school. That comes after summer. I am very much looking forward to this school year. I am sure that some of you are not looking forward to this year, although hopefully there are some and perhaps more than a few of you who are looking forward to this year of school. Either way, we are all here, and you can know that I will think a lot during this year about ways to make it a good year. That’s what I want: a good year of being a teacher. So I’m going to work on that this year. In return, I’d like for you to also work on making it a good year for you as a student.
This year is a first for me. Although this is my tenth year of teaching, it will be my first that I will have moved up, or “looped,” with a class. I have taught eighth grade before, for the first two years of my teaching career, and I taught an eighth grade class in my first year here at Keller, but then I moved to seventh grade and was basically there for seven straight years, even as a I changed schools. But I really enjoyed teaching eighth grade those two years and am, as I said before, looking forward to it, again.
Some of you may be wondering: what are we going to do this year? Is he going to make us do those Letter Essays again? Will I have to read 30 books? Will I have to memorize morphemes? Etc. Well, the answers to those questions, are, in all three cases, yes, sort of, and I think so. But more on that later; the truth is: I’m not 100 percent sure what we’re going to do this year. I have a rough idea; but that can change. One of my best experiences as a teacher came last year when my students brought to fruition a project that began as a result of a class meeting in which I listened to each student say what they wanted to say about the class. I intend to do that this year, and I want to hear your thoughts now – but not literally. I want to hear them through your writing. So, what you’re going to do is write a letter to me and in it you are going to say what you want to do this year in this class, what you want to learn. To help you frame your thinking, know that I want you to leave this room in June feeling fulfilled, or satisfied, or richer, as a result of your time here. But for you to gain something I need to know what it is that you lack. A street without a hole does not need to be filled.
As for me: What do I want to learn this year? I want to learn about you. I want to learn about me. And by doing those to things, and by continuing to read a lot of different stuff, I think I’ll learn more about life, and, perhaps, why I am here in the first place. That’s sort of the journey I’m on.
So, begin now with that letter. Write at least a full page in your Writing Notebook but do not write more than two. Address it to me; I am your audience. And the purpose is to let me know what it is you want to do and learn in this class this year. You may add other details, questions, stories, anecdotes, etc., but the purpose is that: to help me create in a way that is going to be helpful to you. Please begin. Thank you.