Letters at the halfway mark

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)

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10 Responses to Letters at the halfway mark

  1. Renee says:

    What a wonderful idea. I have done some substitute teaching in the past, as a result I have such admiration for teachers. To know that you’ve set aside your vacation time to write letters to students is truly commendable. Wish you well this year.

  2. Love that photo — it tells the story of your dedication and commitment to your students. What reward (aside from the intangible ones) do you hold for yourself once you reach the full tilt of letters?

    • jyourist says:

      My reward is a total pamper day– massage, body wrap, maybe even a manicure, lots of reading, and nice dinner with JB. That day is tomorrow (Friday) so I have to hunker down and finish these last 10 letters.

  3. Jerome Bloom says:

    HEY SUSAN M.

    ANOTHER

    IMAGE FROM

    MY SERIES

    “J’S HOME”

  4. Don’t ever stop not making bowls. I don’t mean that in the double negative sense so let me rethink it. Always avoid making bowls. Is that better?

  5. How fortunate your students are to have such a wonderful teacher! I had several excellent teachers but I cannot imagine a teacher doing such a lovely thing for all her students. Kudo’s to you for giving and working from the heart!

  6. Jan, I think it just such a wonderful thing to do. For your students, yes, but for yourself too. It’s a testament to who you are as a person and a teacher. I’ll bet you are a fabulous teacher and I only wish my boys could be in your class!

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