Wednesday, May 28, 2014



At the end of every school year, I ask my students to write many letters particularly to put in the time capsule to be opened at their high school graduation.  Letters to themselves.  Letters to their BFF to open in four years……..all the while I’m thinking they won’t even know their middle school BFF’s name in four years.  Letters to their favorite teacher to thank them and tell them good-bye.  Letters to their parents about what they are feeling as they leave 8th grade and travel to high school.  Just letters…….serious stuff for them because of the emotional roller-coaster ride they are on at the moment……this moment when they realize the year of being the top-dog in 8th grade is over and the time to travel the halls of higher education as a FRESHMAN is upon them.  Just letters……closure……the end……

One letter I’ve asked for at the end of every year, even when I taught 7th grade, is the letter to me.  I need closure.  I need to know the truth.  Some of you will consider this a moment of narcissistic closure.  Here’s my response to that……I get the truth!!!

I tell my kids that grades are already entered into portal, the report cards and “diplomas” are already printed, the graduation announcements already have their names printed in a 10 point French Script font, the evil Mrs. Hensley will not make an appearance, and I make the crucial pinkie promise that I will NOT be offended by the TRUTH!!!  These are teenagers.  They are hormonal little bouncy balls.  Give them the ability to tell the truth without the possibility of repercussions………..and you better watch out!!!!!!

So I ask them to write the closure letter.  The letter that tells me ……

“Wow, that really helped me learn..keep doing that!”


 “That was the worst lesson ever..don’t ever do that again!” 


 “I acted like I hated that book because everybody else did……but I really LOVED that book!” 


“Please don’t ever use a worksheet again.  We don’t learn anything from them.”


“You weren’t too boring.  I learned stuff.”


And I Quote……

“I hate when older people try to act cool, but I had a lot of fun in your class!”

Most take this letter serious.  Some put a lot of thought into it.  I put a very long list on the board of everything we did throughout the year to remind them of everything they “endured” from me.  Some students will only address one or two things on the list.  Some will write a novel and ask for extra time.  Some will ask if they can make a chart instead of a letter.  Now here’s the deal about these letters.  I read every single word.  I let every word sink in.  I meditate over them.  I’m awed by them.   I’m shocked!  I’m disappointed.  I cry over them.  I get pissed off at them (Queue the pinky promise and STOP IT)

Then I begin my closure for the year.  I read the letter from the child who has LITERALLY  glared at me every day with what I just knew was hatred and contempt…….who wrote to tell me they will never forget how to make a noun show possession because of the “stupid” chant I made them say all year long (success for me)!!!  I read the letter from the girl who never, ever, ever volunteered an answer in class who said I MUST continue doing my bellringer activity the exact same way because she learned more from that than anything.  I read the letter from the BOYS (NOTICE THAT IS PLURAL!!!)…… the BOYS that said they loved reading The Adventures of Tom SawyerI swore they were snoring!!!!  I thought they hated it!!!!  BUT they told me to read it again next year!!!!!!  I also read (with a broken heart) that the lessons that I thought were monumental, the top-notch lesson, the lesson that would make teachers all over the world cry with envy, the lesson I poured my heart and soul into, the lesson I knew that would change the world……….was a complete and total bomb.  They will tell the truth.  I learn the cold-hearted truth.  I learn they want to use GOOD technology.  They want to play games.  They don’t want to grade papers in class - they want me to do it to avoid being embarrassed.  They don’t really mind poetry so much.  They want to be read to.  They want to work in groups, but they want me to “pay attention” to the ones that aren’t productive and helpful.  They LOVE Socratic Seminars (This really was a SHOCK)    Soooo…….here’s what I do. 

If the majority of my students tell me they learned NOTHING from a lesson or process or procedure..then I stop doing it.  I delete it, I change it, I rearrange it, I tweak it, I throw it in the trash -   whatever it takes - but I listen to what they wrote and I find a little peace……a little hope.. a little closure for another year.  It’s not always rainbows and butterflies when a 14 year old tells you in writing how much you SUCK, but let me tell ya…… will ground you, it will bring your “I’m all that” teacher attitude back to Earth, and it will give you closure.

Closure for my last year in my 40’s( GASPClosure for a year in which I found out my son and his wife are going to make me a granny!!  Closure for my youngest son’s freshman year with outstanding grades and a really cool attitude!!  Closure for another year without my momma.  Closure for a year of such clarity and freedom and happiness in my life……of being ME.  Closure for a year of sadness in seeing a great friend and mentor retire.  Closure for a year of worry about a colleague with multiple personal and family medical problems.  Closure for a year of seeing teachers and students in our district pass away..leaving behind such sadness.  Closure for students being faced with gigantic problems…….problems kids should never, ever, ever have to face.  Closure for a year of such stress and anxiety and urgent significance placed on one test only to find out it wasn’t graded on time.  Closure for another year.  Another year in which I cry at our little 8th grade “graduation” when I see them leave.  Another year gone.  Goodbye 2013-2014 school year.  Onward, my friends.  

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