An open letter to the students in English IV

Happy New Year, Seniors!

Congratulations on reaching the second half of your senior year!  Looking ahead, most of you will be starting your university careers in about nine months.  In less than five months — just over a hundred days, if you’re counting — you’ll be finishing up high school, going to graduation, and saying goodbye to our school.  In my experience, it goes fast.

So you have a very short time to finish whatever you want your high school years to mean.  A very short time to establish your legacy here at our school, to complete the story of your childhood.  Knowing this, I would like to invite you to think a little bit about what you anticipate that legacy being, and to consider things that you still can do to make your education complete. 

One of the things about being so close to adulthood is the wide range of choices available to you.  At this point, what you decide to learn, and the extent to which you learn it, is entirely up to you.  The same is true of your friendships:  The extent to which you give of yourself is all up to you.  Like life, high school ends.  This might be a good time to start thinking about your time here as a limited opportunity.  In a couple of months, you’ll say goodbye to this class, these buildings, these teachers, and many of your friends.  That means that you have a couple of months to decide what kind of an exit you’ll make.  Will you walk away from your school and your friends feeling that you gave as much as you could?  That you are bringing away with you the love of your friends and some significant knowledge?

For the next few months, I’m going to ask you to keep in touch with these ideas by writing a letter every couple of weeks.  I’ll read them and respond to them.  In these letters, you can share any thought that you want.  You can talk about goals that you have or challenges that you face.  You can write about your hopes for college or things that you’ll miss from this life here at our school.  You can talk about projects that you’re working on, or anything else that strikes you as important.  You can be as personal or as impersonal as you want to be.  My goal in assigning you this task is to keep you writing, and also to invite you to keep evaluating where you are and where you’re going.  Here’s a little reflection of my own:

Prior to the new year, we looked at two important works of literature:  Macbeth and Beowulf.  The Macbeth unit was a new risk for me, as I experimented with lessons that put students in charge of understanding the play and coming up with their own interpretations.  It was a lot of fun for me to learn how this play can be experienced and interpreted today — even by students who just sort of “have to” deal with reading Shakespeare.  In the notes that I took over the course of these lessons, I learned a lot about how to guide this trip in a better way, but for the most part, I enjoyed the trip — and I hope that students did, too.  In the end, I think that this group of students understood Shakespeare better than any other group that I have taught in a classroom setting.  So that’s good.  I would very much like to find ways to apply the same kinds of lessons to the other works that we will study, although these plans are tough to make.  In Beowulf, I would like to think that some of you got to enjoy reading the poem and that many of you at least enjoyed the story of this first superhero.  I’m hopeful that our study of Grendel will be rewarding for you.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Have a great new year, class of 2012!

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About englishparsons

A happy English teacher with massive potential for growth. Trying to share the best I have to offer with the teaching world.
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