Six wishes: A first day letter to my students…from afar

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Dear Smithlings,

The new school year began today, and my thoughts are very much with you.  I imagine it is a busy day, I imagine that you are in the midst of putting aside summer thoughts for those of homework (ugh, that dreaded word!) and navigating your way through the old school with a new schedule, and I imagine that you are already looking forward to next summer with longing.

Room 202 is now in another teacher’s hands, and I know that the sixth grade hallway will take some getting used to – no more alumni candy, books, and hugs :(.  And, though I may be far away from that room and hallway, I’m thinking about all of you today, and I’m wishing the following for you:

* I wish you a year of owning your learning.  Your learning lives are precious, don’t let anyone waste this time.  Call out classmates and teachers who seek to divert this time with rambling diversions and classroom shenanigans.  Ask (politely, of course) for the purpose behind assignments – how will they advance your powers of reading, writing, and thinking? Challenge (politely, of course) busy work, for you deserve better than that.  Don’t allow your fellow classmates to waste time in ways you are already wise to, for you deserve better than that, as well.

*I wish you a year of great reading.  Amazing books are out there – books that will help you find insight into the happenings of your heart, your world, and the world. A wise teacher, Rudine Sims Bishop, wrote this:

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books. “

Find those books, stick with them, learn and grow from them.

*I wish you a year of continued writing.  We wrote a LOT in Room 202, we learned to write in many ways, and for many different reasons.  The most important reason is for you to learn about how you feel and what you think.  We learned how to write essays from another wise educator, Katherine Bomer, whose words about essay writing can be applied to all writing:

“In the electric, pulsating world around us, the essay lives a life of abandon, posing questions, speaking truths, fulfilling a need people have to know what other humans think and wonder so we can feel less alone.”

Keep  writing – keep discovering what moves you, what interests you, and how you can change the world with the power of your words.

*I wish you a year of asking questions.  We learned to ask the “three big questions” (thanks to my teaching own heroes, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst):

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keep these in mind when you read or hear something new, know the difference between what Dr. Beers called “a question that needs to be answered versus a question that needs to be explored”.  A lot of class time will be spent on the former, but you will learn much more if you pursue the latter, even if it’s on your own time and out of school.

*I wish you a year of paying attention to what is happening in the world around you, bring what you learn into the classroom, make it matter.  George Orwell has been much on my mind ever since the election of 2016 (we had some lively political discussions as you may remember – all of us fearless about stating what we thought and what we questioned), and these lines of his really stop me in my tracks time and time again:

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell

Aim to understand your history, and the history of our nation.  Soon enough, you will come of age to be able to vote and to change the course of our country; what you know, and allow yourself to know, will determine our future.

*I wish you a year of kindness.  School life is hard, and small acts of intentional kindness just makes the experience better for everyone.  Don’t forget to be kind to yourselves, too  – learn from your mistakes and failures, don’t beat yourself up over them.  Words are hard to take back, so take that moment to think about their power before you text, post, speak.

Have a fabulous new year!  Let me know how it goes…

I love and miss you,

Mrs. Smith

 

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4 thoughts on “Six wishes: A first day letter to my students…from afar

  1. Pingback: Six wishes: A first day letter to my students…from afar | Living Small in a Big World

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