“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Welcome Back to School Letter to Families

Yes, I am thinking about "Back to School" already.  In fact, I start thinking about it before the end of school each year.  I have found the more prepared I am ahead of time, the less panicked I feel as the date approaches.  One of the things I like to do each year is get a class list at the end of June and get my school secretary (who is a goddess in my eyes) to print me out mailing labels.  I decided to do this after writing out names and addresses on 30 envelopes!  It just didn't seem like a good use of my time (and I have tendinitis in my writing arm). 
I started out my teaching career (can it really be over 22 years ago?) by sending home a postcard to each student in my upcoming class.  At that time, I really just wanted to say "hi" and I didn't have the year planned out yet.  At this point in my life, I know what we are going to do, and I know what I want to share with the students and families early in the year.  I started writing a Welcome Back to School letter to my students and their families several years ago.  I am loathe to admit that it seems to get longer each year!
This is what my current letter looks like.  I know that 6 pages is long, but I like to use larger font and lots of graphics.  I print it DOUBLE SIDED at school before the end of June so I am not trying to do it at home (too many years of this have used up too much paper and toner!)

In the letter I include:
  • an introduction
  • a brief outline of what we curriculum topics we will be covering in class this year
  • a visual list of "suggested" school supplies (students in my district do not have to purchase items but I have found that most students bring things anyhow, so they might as well have my suggestions)
  • an overview of my "mission for the class"
  • my behaviour policy
  • my district's homework policy and my views on homework
  • a closing wishing a great rest of the summer to the students and their families
  • a link to my classroom website
I have received really positive feedback from students and parents over the years.  They are often surprised to receive something from me personally and they like the visual layout of the back to school supply list. I try to write something individual to each student on the printed letter.  This might be a comment from their teacher last year "I hear that you are an awesome artist" or it might be something like "I am looking forward to our first field trip to...".  The personal touch I think is nice.
I have found over the years that this letter sets the tone for my interactions with the students and families for the year.  They know a little about me (they can read my bio on my classroom website) and they know we are going to have fun and work hard!
If you would like to download an EDITABLE copy of my letter for this year please visit me at  Welcome Back to School Letter on TPT.
All I have to do now is stuff the pre-addressed envelopes and buy some stamps.  I usually send home this letter the last week of August.  I keep extra copies at school the first week for new students or students who have moved during the summer months!
I hope you are enjoying the rest of your summer, and that my letter might inspire you to try something new this year too!