The end of the school year is nearing in New York State. Graduation is just around the corner. The time approached yesterday when I take my yearly journey to my desk and gather another bunch of letters to mail. Mailing these letters marks for me another end of a high school era for a group of students I once taught.
During all of the years that I have taught grades five and above, a closing activity that my classes have done as the year draws to a close is a special letter writing activity. The students write a letter to themselves—their high school graduating self or their college graduating self (depending on the age of the students). They write about what it is like to be a fifth grader (or whatever grade I was currently teaching). They write about things they hope they did in the time between the letter and when they receive it. They write about the hopes they have for their future. Students give me the letters addressed to a stable home (grandparents, mom and dad) and I put a Forever stamp on it. I wrap the stacked letters in a bow and put a sticky on that says something like, “mail for graduation, 2014.”
This week I pulled the letters for this year out of my desk. I look at each envelope and remember the fifth grade child. Then I put my return address on each envelope and on the flip side wrote a simple message—“Happy graduation. Write back!”
This has been a tradition for many of my years of teaching. I still have three packets of letters in my desk, the letters stopping with my move to primary grades and then to administration. These letters have been links I have made with my students. They link me to an older version of the students I once knew. They link them to themselves—a younger child to the older, graduating young adult. I love the responses I will soon receive through the mail. I love imagining the surprise on the senior’s face as s/he opens a letter from long ago and long forgotten.
The end of a school year is upon us. For the seniors that will soon be receiving their letters, the end of their public schooling is upon them. Congratulations to my students from long ago. May you begin this new era with strong dreams, joy and the knowledge you received from your schooling and life. May you leap into your future with these gifts tied into a bow to be successful and happy in whatever you choose do do!