A few years ago I wrote Writing Letters To Students, which tells about a tactic I sometimes use in the classroom and includes an example. I’ve also written about it in my books.
This has been a somewhat tough year in the classroom for me (I can only imagine what it would have been like without all the tools I’ve had in my backpocket to help students motivate themselves), and I have many students who are facing multiple challenges. I’m sure it’s no different from the issues faced by thousands of other educators, particularly ones who teach in inner-city schools like ours.
Last week, in one of my classes, I wrote short letters of a few sentences each to everyone of my students, included them in sealed envelopes with their names, and left them on their desks. Each letter shared something I appreciated about them, what they did, and what I hoped they would be able to do in the final three months of the school year to tie in with what I know about the dreams they have for themselves (“I really appreciate how you’ve turned things around this semester and have become a serious learner. Even when there are plenty of opportunities to get distracted, you’ve been doing a good job at staying focused. You’ve said you want to be more of a leader, and I know that in the last three months of the school year you can do that by helping other students more in small groups”)
Students were generally surprised and pleased, though a few tried, unsuccessfully, to be rather nonchalant about it. They seemed to have an impact on student attitudes. We’ll see how long it lasts, but I’m optimistic. At the very least, however, it provides me with something else to refer back to — in other words, instead of saying “Please get back to work” when a student is off-task, I can say “remember the letter.”
I’ve been having some challenges with some students in one of my other classes lately, so I’ll be doing the same there on Monday.
In my previous post on this topic, a number of readers wrote in to share their own experiences with writing letters to students. I hope people will do the same here….