It’s that time of year. Jansport backpacks and colorful pencil cases, busy aisles of tax-free clothing and shoes, stressed out parents and anxious students, schedules and pickups and drop offs and extracurricular activities.
Yesterday, I spent about six hours moving furniture, cleaning, and organizing my new classroom. It’s not completely done yet, but I made a pretty good dent in it and if I’m honest, I’m feeling good about starting a new year. I’ll be teaching Freshman English, Journalism I, and Yearbook: all subjects I taught last year and all subjects I actually enjoy. So I feel prepared.
Planning week starts on Monday, and though I’m slightly stressed about the amount of meetings I have to attend, the number of papers I have to type and copy, the posters I need to hot glue to my walls, the litany of appointments I have to work around for my son, I’m optimistic.
Tonight, I started thinking about my future students and what I want them to learn this year. Last year, I assigned my students a group project to write a “Dear Future Freshman” letter or song. So I started playing with the idea in my head… What would I write to my future students? Instead of taping a supply list of index cards and Kleenex boxes to my classroom door, what if I came up with another supply list? What do I want my kids to know before they enter my room?
Dear Future Students:
In a little over a week, you will walk into my classroom for the first time. You’ll have a syllabus to sign, school policies to review, and a seating chart to follow. You’ll surely be curious about the class expectations and goals for the year. Yes, there are common core standards to master, and yes, there is FSA testing to pass. But in my class, I want you to learn more than that.
More than that? you ask. Yes. More. Because English goes far beyond grammatical errors and “i before e except after c.” It goes beyond main ideas in the first sentence of a paragraph and context clues. It goes beyond firstly, secondly, thirdly, and in conclusion.
So what do I want? First item on your supply list: An open mind.
I want you to dive into literature head first, whether you like it or not, and realize it applies to real life. I want you to take messages from powerful nonfiction, and to pass on the power and peace of orators like Martin Luther King, Jr.
I want you to write so descriptively that the person reading feels the emotions that coursed through your mind and body the moment you penned the lines.
I want you to read a short story or a novel or a play and identify with a character–with his hopes and dreams, with his successes and failures, with his quirks and mistakes–because even though he’s so incredibly different from you (he’s from a different era, perhaps, or a different culture, a different nation altogether), he really is a lot like you. And somehow, you find he’s a lot like everyone else, too.
I want you to absorb poetry with all five of your senses and listen to the lyrics of your favorite songs in a way you never have before.
I want you to improve your vocabulary so that your girlfriend doesn’t just know you think she looks “pretty.” She knows you think she’s stunning. Exquisite. Breathingtaking. I want her to know you’re not just interested. You don’t just like her. You’re enraptured. Entranced. Bewitched. Captivated.
I want you to argue. With me. With your classmates. With yourself. To understand why you believe what you believe and to allow others to challenge those beliefs, no matter how deeply rooted they might be. I want you to talk, yell, laugh, ask, and answer. I want you to play and draw and act out and pretend.
I want you to use technology correctly, to research for real and check your sources before spewing and forwarding rumors on Facebook and Twitter.
I don’t want you to simply remember or recall. I want you to apply, to analyze, to synthesize, to hypothesize.
I want you to recognize that a big world exists beyond Holiday, Florida, but that your world here is important, too.
I want you to respect one another and to respect me, to appreciate similarities and differences, and to behave as a young adult.
I want you to know that I care about now, and I care about tomorrow, and I care about your future. I care about academics and extracurricular activities and your personal life and struggles, as well. I want you to know that you’ll have bad days and I’ll have bad days. If you have a bad day, you can tell me or not tell me. You can leave it at the door and come in to work or you can ask for a break.
I want you to learn about yourself and to learn to value and listen to others.
I want you to know that if you never like me and you never like English, that’s okay. You don’t have to like it. But you have to know how to properly use it.
I want you to grasp the literal and figurative. To spend fifty minutes a day stretching yourself, expanding your intellect, enriching your mind.
And maybe at the end, pass a test or two.
See you Monday,