Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dear Sixth Graders...

...but not so snarky this time.

Every year I include a letter to my students in their final project portfolio. The beginning of the letter is directly to them, individually, about how I've seen them grow, or what I admire about them, or a way in which we've connected this year. The second part is the same for everyone, and just for fun, I'm going to post it here.

The poem in the middle is one that was inspired by another poem I found from a teacher to his high school students. So while the idea is not original, I've adapted it to suit what I want to say to my students. Poetry is not really my thing, but I've made them write poetry, and I try to walk the talk. The literary references might not make sense if you haven't read the novels, but the books we've read together are:

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit
My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Detectives in Togas, by Henry Winterfeld
Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt

So, the letter has an introduction, blah blah blah, loved your Egypt project, etc... and then...

We’ve learned a lot of lessons together through our literature this year. I hope that those lessons linger for you, in some fashion. You don’t have to wait “till you’re a grown up” to make choices, to better the world around you. Remember Dicey purposefully leading her siblings to their Homecoming in Crisfield. Remember Winnie Foster protecting her darling Tucks. Remember Jonas risking everything for love, for color. Remember Jesse and Leslie taking the risk to open their hearts honestly to each other, changing them both. Remember Sam training his falcon, and the boys pulling Xantippus from the wardrobe. Think about Annemarie standing up to the soldiers, using her wit and understanding, finally, what it means to be brave. You are capable of all of those things, if you need to be, and even more. In the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, “You must remember this: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

I hope 6th grade has given you some moments of fun, moments of triumph, and above all, moments of learning and discovery. Did you Create and Connect, as our first day-of-school puzzle invited? I hope you began to understand that your greatest creation…your biggest project of all…is creating YOU, a completely original, uncopiable work of the finest art. You get to create YOU, and every decision you make, from what you say to the girl sitting alone at a lunch table to what you put into your body for breakfast in the morning, is a reflection of who you want to be in the world. Choose well, my friend. CHOOSE well, and don’t let the days and experiences slip idly by without giving them a good looking-at. Notice and wonder. Summer is a perfect time for that. Here is my wish for you this summer:

Breathe in your summer, blades of grass between your toes
sand in your flip flops, sea-salt on your ankles and the insides of your wrists.
Lie on your back and watch the patterns of the oak leaf on blue sky,
the cavalcade of images in the clouds, the dragonflies and the sparrows.

Smell the cool, clean sheets and warm strawberries still on their vines,
Smell the air heavy with waiting raindrops,
And the unabashedly pink, sweet beach plum roses.
Let your hands get sticky from melting grape popsicles,
giggle at the crunch of sand in your soggy tuna sandwiches at the beach.

Run out when the ice-cream man comes, run with your hide-and-go-seekers,
Run into the twilight, and run out of the dawn. Run and cartwheel, unembarrassed.
Run like Jesse and Leslie, toward kindred spirits,
And run like Jonas and Annemarie, for truth and justice.

Notice the first week of August when it hangs at the top of the live-long year,
And do something bold to impress yourself, like Winnie did.
Read under a tree, or in a tree, or beside a tree. Read in the grass
Or on the sand or under the sheets with a flashlight in hand.
Through the pages, have adventures that aren't only your own, too.

Look and listen, dream and imagine, taste and feel,
Mindful and awake.
Run and read, climb and dance, dive and leap
Fearless and free.
Summer, the verb.

I will always wonder about you…who you become, how you grow, where you journey and what you discover. I would love to hear from you somewhere down the road, if you’re so inclined. We have “little bits of each other’s lives,” as Dicey said. You have given me a gift this year, one that I will treasure and honor. You have shared with me a very special era of your life. So, in the words of The Giver, thank you for your childhood. I wish you love, adventure, insight and passion as you make your way boldly into the world.

Your 6th Grade Teacher

1 comment:

  1. Oh gosh to have a teacher articulate love so well! What a gift you are to them. I love how you take so seriously these people's lives. --The poem is beautiful and just right :)

    Love you!