Saturday, August 17, 2013

Your Back to School Letter

At the end of the first day of school, students will be caring home 4, 5, 6, 7 back to school letters to their parents. Multiply that by the number of children and you can easily approach two-dozen letters! A cynic might say, “That’s why I don’t write a back to school letter. Parents don't read 'em anyway."

Maybe that explains why, as a teacher and parent, I've seen my fair share of bad back to school letters. These would be the letters that are: 
  • riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • too long; Listing every intricate detail, procedure and rule
  • threatening in tone. Overuse of statements like “I will not,” “…will result in…” I still remember a student sharing a letter from a teacher that read something like, “My job is to teach the students. It is their responsibility to adapt to my style and to learn.”  Needless to say, the student wasn’t looking forward to this class; who can blame her?

On the other hand, a great back to school letter sets the tone for parent-teacher-student engagement.

What's included in a great back to school letter?
  • Your passion for your subject and your students. Why do you teach? What do you hope students will bet out of your class? What will students learn about themselves? 
  • Something personal--break down the walls. Learning should be a shared endeavor; so let your parents and students get to know who you really are.
  • How are you going to ensure that all students are successful?
  • Contact information. I've always included my personal phone number and only once in 20 years has it been any sort of problem (1 prank phone call from a student). 
  • What parents can do to help their children be successful in your class.
  • What makes your class different--and better--than the rest.

Powerful words and phrases:
Shared                        Journey                      Exciting                    Together       
We                             Incredible                   Success                     Effort
Connect                     Communication          Develop                    Engaging
Expect                       Learn                          Progress                    Us
Contact me                Background                Looking forward to   Believe
Different                    Care                            Challenge                  Help

What do you think should or shouldn't be included in a back to school letter? 
Parents, do you read them? Do they matter? 

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