An Open Letter To My 7th Grade Students

Before the school year started, I wrote an open letter to my students. It’s full of broken promises and buzzwords and honestly, is a little embarrassing, but represents a moment in time that I want to document.

Dear Students,

I want you to know that I’m looking forward to getting to know you in the weeks, months and years ahead. I think of you as more than students. I believe that before anything else, you are people first, and are entitled to the respect and attention that all people deserve. I also think that you’re going to teach me just as much as I plan to teach you. 

As I begin designing lesson plans and testing out lab activities for our time together, it’s easy to come up with a list of all the high expectations I have for you. But I want you to know that it’s ok for you to have high expectations for me. In fact, I hope you do because you deserve the best teachers the City of Baltimore has to offer, and I promise to show up each and every day to try to give you just that.

At first, it may seem like we are very different, and in many ways, we are different. But in a lot of ways, we are very much alike. For example, first and foremost, I am a person, and unfortunately, all people have biases. This is something I will devote time to every week so I can be sure whatever biases I might have are not impacting you. Like you, I must also continue to learn and grow to be my best self. To be the best teacher I can be, I will be doing a lot of reading, listening to podcasts, taking professional development courses and collaborating with other educators to be sure I’m evolving, growing and improving. 

When I think about our first few weeks together, I’m most excited about getting to know you. You should also know that I plan on establishing a relationship with your parent/guardian. I know that I will have to work to build your trust. I’m looking forward to that, I really am. 

Besides getting to know you, I’m also excited to teach you Biology. I think of it more of facilitating learning than teaching, but we can talk about that later. For now, just know that you can plan on being an active participant during our time together. I want you to play a role in your learning journey. This might take the form of discussions, group work or working with lab partners. I will work tirelessly to ensure that each of you has the support and access you need to be successful in reaching your learning goals.  

As you will soon find out, I’m an open and honest person and am far from perfect. It has only been in the past few years that I’ve discovered the power of setting goals for myself. Goal setting has dramatically improved my life and is something I wish I had discovered when I was your age. We will spend some time together in the first few weeks developing your goals. I used to spend a lot of time feeling like a failure because I never took the time to define what success looks like. I won’t let you make that mistake. 

What I can let you do is thrive in the classroom. Together, we’ll figure out what works for you to be your best self during our time together. I know what works for me, and that is sticking to a routine and having a clean and tidy space. I am sensitive to my surroundings, so if my space is messy, I find my mind is messy, too. Because of this, keeping our shared space neat, tidy and orderly is critical. You can always expect structure and a predictable routine in my class because I need to stick to a routine to be my best self. 

In the virtual space, I hope you are open to some surveys and icebreakers to get the process started. When we are able to meet in person, I’d like to work together to decorate our shared space. I’ve got some ideas, but since it’s your space too, I want to be sure we can create a safe and welcoming atmosphere that reflects who we are as a classroom community. I’m really excited about this.

In closing, I want you to thank you for being a part of this truly special moment of my life. The year ahead is full of many unknowns, but for me, I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be. Teaching is a lifelong dream of mine and I’ve worked very hard for the privilege of teaching you. Whether we’re in a virtual or in-person classroom, you are my very first students and will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you for the opportunity!

Ms. Vail

Teachers Log: 01.23.2021

In the style of Jean-Luc Picard

Transcript: Stardate 2021. After gaining teaching experience and having a close read fail just today, this letter looks long af and is uncomfortably well-intentioned. A supplemental log will be added to update the status of the current situation.

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