a tale of three letters

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Dear Students and Family Members,

It is difficult to believe that an entire school year has passed already. It has definitely been a year full of learning, fun, interesting events, some tears, much laughter, hard work and effort.

As always is the case, some events do indeed stand out from the rest, like hearing a child announce, “I did it!” after saying, “This is too hard for me.” There are too many memories to list, but some are:

Morning Meeting Celebrations that had us clapping like seals, setting off fireworks and impersonating Elvis, Knock, Knock jokes, group dances and singing songs like, “Black Socks” and “Do Your Thang!” Discovering what “Kind of Minds” we have, read alouds that caused us to laugh, cry and stretch our “Fantastic Elastic Brains.” Class quotes like, “Everybody gets what they need,” We’re all perfectly imperfect,” You don’t have to be perfect, just give it your best shot,” and “Being this awesome takes practice.” Appreciation Circle, inner coaches, positive affirmations and group projects (watching students work together and then beaming with pride over their achievements).

What will stand out the most, however, is the uniqueness, the creativity, the many talents, and the multiple intelligences of each student that made up the classroom community of [our room].

In the spirit of being a classroom community where we valued each other’s voices and were hopefully free to take risks and believe in ourselves, we want to share this poem entitled “I believe in me!” by Peter Reynolds.

Our hope is that every student leaving [our room] will always be a thoughtful learner, an active observer, an ally for those in need, a creative thinker and above all a risk taker:

I Believe in ME!

by Peter Reynolds

I believe in me.

I promise to remember who I am.

I promise to think about where I am,

Where I’m going, and where I want to be

going, and what I need to do to get there.

I promise to be a creative thinker,

A constructive problem solver,

A curious explorer,

A real listener,

A caring person,

An active citizen. I promise to help others.

To help others discover their own dreams

And be proud of who they are.

To believe that with time, patience,

And positive energy,

We can move the world to a

Better place.

Love, Peace and Happiness,

[Your teachers]

It was in that environment – one that fostered respect, self-esteem, personal and communal responsibility, celebration of diversity through honest discussions about difference, risk-taking, a love of learning, the power of laughter, the importance of creating time for being silly – that my kid wrote THIS —

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And then THIS … 

letter.1

letter.2

I just keep reminding myself that you don’t come here for my photo-editing skills. Right? Right. Moving on. 

Dear Future 5th Grade Teacher,

My name is Brooke. I live with my mom dad and sister I have 2 dogs named Winston and Lucy, I also have a fish named Swisha. My favorite color is pink. My favorite zoo animal is a monkey. I love to sleep in my bed.

There are some things I really like to do in school. I like quiet time because I get to pick an activity. I also like to sing in chorus. I am good at writing stories, and I am an awesome speller. In school I am working on playing with kids at recess. I am also working on reading in my head and thinking about the story. Outside of school I am working on doing homework by myself, I am also working on playing my clarinet and finding the right keys. 

I am excited about having a 5th grade concert. I am looking forward to the field trips. Also I can’t wait to learn about math. I don’t know what class I am in, but I can’t wait for next year.

(Heart)

Brooke

And so it is that today, I write THIS …

Dear Ms J, Ms H, Ms C and Ms J,

Thank you.

This is what love, respect and a little bit of silly allows our kids to do — to be themselves, to take pride in who they are, to recognize and celebrate their strengths and talents, and to be able to share those thoughts with someone else.

There are no words big enough for just how monumental that is.

If you ever doubt whether or not you’re making a difference, I implore you to come back here, think of the anxious little girl who started your class this year and then read what she had to say about herself and her beautiful, glorious, awesome head.

What you do matters.

You are creating ripples in the water that will continue their journey outward long after your kids — OUR kids — have left your care.

You are doing it right.

Thank you.

Love,

Jess

19 thoughts on “a tale of three letters

  1. This has just put me in tears, at this time in the morning. Brooke is wonderful! Your family has assisted her in making her who she is. Your school district is also to be commended. WOW!!!!

    • the people in the trenches of our schools have been amazing. we are very blessed to have had them. heartbreakingly, this particular class model, which was such a godsend for us, is, despite our best attempts to fight for it, going the way of the wagon wheel thanks to cost cutting / reprioritization. makes me really sad for all those who could have similarly benefitted from it.

      • I have been wondering you could outline the class model a bit, because it sounds like it is really benefitting Brooke, but I’m not fully clear on what it looks like. I teach in NC, unfortunately one of the bottom 5 in terms of school funding, so I’m sure it is very different than what we have, but I’d be interested to see what I could take from it to apply to the students in my self-contained class.

      • she was in an integrated class, made up of both kids with learning disabilities and those without, co-led by a general education teacher and a special education teacher with the assistance of a classroom aide. (a money saving note — the aides can be culled, as ours often are, from local graduate schools in education – internship programs can save a ton of money (and help the teachers to be get experience in the classroom) and NC certainly has no shortage of colleges and universities!). in order to access that room, however, she also has a full time behaviorally trained aide dedicated to supporting her.

        outside of the classroom, she has 1:1 ELA (mostly for reading comprehension, which is a HUGE challenge for her – she’s at the late K / early 1st grade level as a rising 5th grader) and math, in which a separate curriculum is used in order to make (modified) participation in the gen ed curriculum even remotely possible.

        she also has speech and language services, which include social pragmatics along with more tradional slp fare.

        we’ve worked very, very hard to create this incredible program for our kiddo, and to advocate for services like these for EVERY child who needs them throughout our town, the state and the country. i am painfully aware of how incredibly blessed we are to live in a place where these services are possible, with or without a fight, when in so many other situations, they simply don’t exist.

        so too, i am so grateful that as a teacher in a less than ideal situation, you are trying to make things better. at the end of the day, even when money is tight and options spare, the good people in the trenches can make a huge difference. thank you for being one of them.

      • Wow–that sounds fantastic! I never cease to be infuriated when we are forced to make decisions based on money instead of what each child needs. I have fought hard to have my students included for specials and any other appropriate subjects. But scheduling is a nightmare when I have 4 different grade levels, students who all require most of their academics individually or maybe in groups of 2, and just 2 aides and myself to do it all.
        One of the hardest parts of my job by far is when I have to talk to parents about the fact that we simply do not have the staff to support their children in more inclusion classes, and that comes down to decisions made by legislation and funding. Sadly, NC continues to slash funding, teacher pay, and positions, so I only see things getting worse as we move forward.

      • It truly is so disheartening to watch political debates in which our children’s very lives hang in the balance veer so very far off course. And this is the result — situations like these – where teachers like you, who *get* it, are left without the resources and support to do your jobs effectively. Makes me sad and angry for ALL of us.

        Keep trying, Jordan. I implore you — keep trying.

        xo

    • Thank you so much. And thank you for all you do for not only Brooke, not only for your community and your state, but for all of us. It is amazing to be able to be connected to this community who are all so differently impacted, yet all have the same ultimate goal. You and everyone here inspires me!

  2. Your Brooke is an example and a tribute to you and her teachers of how all children should feel about themselves. “It is perfect. It is all it should be!”

  3. “I am good at writing . . . .” Um, YES SHE IS!!!! Her letter rocks my world today. Busting with excitement for all she is accomplishing, mastering, understanding, etc. Her words show that she really (REALLY) knows herself and she LIKES herself. Win, WIN, WIN!!!! Oh happy day. And I see shades of you in this letter – you are the best writer I know and it seems you have birthed a new generation of lovely writers! Ahahaah!!! I could scream with excitement over this. 🙂

      • XO – – I cannot let this go yet. “I am excited about having a 5th grade concert.” WHAT?!!! You mean the concert that will put you in front of hundreds of people in a room full of unpredictable noise and chaos?!!! Brooke baby you are my hero!!! Next time I am intimidated about something I am thinking about you baby!! And I sincerely hope you read this message one day way down the line and then I would love to discuss how you change me.

  4. It’s so wonderful to read success stories for our kids. I’m currently fighting the school district here in OR… and previously have fought the good fight in MA. It makes me believe that good things can happen when I hear that even one other child is making it work.

  5. I would be too nervous to leave this on FB with such a crowd…but I wanted to take a quick moment to tell you that the things you say make me think in a very direct and hopeful but also an independent way (because you aren’t didactic, you encourage free thought) about the kind of mom I *want* to be. I would have died for a mom who made it a point to tell me I was worthwhile. That sounds so pitiful and vulnerable (hence the no posting on FB), but my heart would be not perfect, but so much whole-r and less aching if someone had regularly told me they saw me. *You see your daughters.*

    My heart swells for your daughters whenever you talk about telling them that you *see* them. Hear this, from a stranger: you can’t imagine the gift you’re giving them. Nothing matters more. So, kudos to you. You reach current day moms, but you also reach those of us who want to be moms but worry and worry and worry that we can’t do it. I read your posts and I think, ‘Well gosh, I could tell my kid I love her. No matter what. That I adore all that makes her unique. That I celebrate it. Her. I can totally do that…’ When I read *you* doing that, I can believe I have enough to give. You haven’t any idea how meaningful this is to me. You really can’t.

    I wish I had better words, more colors, a wider paintbrush. Don’t ever stop doing what you do. Please.

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