School is starting in a week. I always send a letter to my new students, trying to get them excited about the ideas we will be exploring in class and giving them a glimpse of who I am–an artist, gardener, reader, and writer. This is an easy letter to write because I don’t know these students yet. It is typed. I put their name at the top. I sign my name at the bottom with my animated horizon line.
I also write a personal letter, handwritten, to each of my students from last year, wishing them well, supporting their journey, and encouraging their spirit as they begin high school. I even make the cards using one of my photographs. These letters, of course, take a lot longer to write. Though they are similar, each one is targeted to the specific student to whom I am writing, reflecting something I remember about them from the year we spent together.
This is one way I get centered on the year ahead. A way I make closure with the previous year and perhaps tie up a few loose ends. Touching base with those relationships helps me to make room for the new relationships yet to be formed with my new students.
I’m halfway through. I always get to this point and feel, why did I start? Is this really what I want to do during the last week before I go back to work? Wouldn’t I rather be reading or drawing or having coffee with friends? Though writing these notes takes a lot of effort, I know how touched the students are by their letter. They tell me so every year when they visit me in my room (an advantage of being in a K-12 school). As snail mail is such an artifact of the past, they are surprised, sometimes bewildered, that I would spend the time to write individually to each of them.
Sometimes, at the halfway mark, I’m pretty surprised I’m doing it too.
But sometimes, I’m even more surprised when a couple of them actually write me back. No better gift than that.
(Photo by JB)