I’ve written quite a bit about some of the challenges my students and I face at our inner-city high school, and some of the strategies and specific tactics I use to respond to them (see What Do You Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At School?)
One of the newer things I’ve been trying is writing a personal letter to a student, placing it in a sealed envelope with his/her name on it, and just giving it to him/her in a matter-of-fact way. It’s been amazing to me to see the effect these letters have had. I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before!
Here’s a sample of one (obviously, the name has been changed):
I’m writing this letter to you because I really want you to hear how strongly I believe you have the ability to go far in life, and that I believe staying in school and doing well will help you get there.
I’m concerned since I understand that you told you mother that you “wanted to be like” your older brother and leave school.
You and I both know that, when you put your mind to it, school work is pretty easy for you. However, for some reason, you often decide you just don’t want to do it.
Graduating from high school is going to open a lot of doors for you in life – for work and for further schooling or training. I hope you make a decision to finish this school year strong and approach next year with a positive attitude.
You are very smart — as your essays and “make-and-breaks” have shown. It would be sad – both for you and for others in your life (including me!) – if you chose not to use all the “smarts” that you do have.