Monday, December 5, 2011

Letters From Children

Occasionally I will write a blog post and think that my students' parents might be interested in reading it, especially if it has to do directly with school.  This is the reverse of that.  I wrote this newsletter and thought a few of you might be interested as well.  

Part of the rhythm of teaching where I teach is having interns and student teachers.  So far I have worked with 32 young teachers.  My students always have an intern in the fall and a full time student teacher in the spring.  At The Center for Inquiry we are all teachers and learners and having preservice experiences in our classrooms is part of that model.  

My students write letters of advice at the end of each semester.  And they should.  Their point of view about what is important in classrooms is possibly the clearest one.  What they have to say is sincere and fairly unclouded by the lens of propriety that most grownups wear.  I always write a letter too, but my insights are rarely any more caring or accurate as those of my students.  

Here is last week's news to parents...

The World Is Our Classroom 
Dear Parents, 
           This morning was one of those magic times in the classrooms where, for 
about 15 minutes, it didn’t matter if I was there at all.  We wrote our farewell 
letters to Trina.  Today was technically her final day with us, but her 
mother-in-law died recently and she and her family are in Mississippi right 
now.  I am sure that she’ll be back by next Tuesday, when the MATs meet here 
for their final USC class with Heidi.  So Tuesday will be her gift shower.  Many 
children have already brought gifts and they are waiting for her in the corner 
of our reading area.   
           Today we wrote our letters.  We spoke together about what would be 
appropriate topics.  Certainly appreciations are in order.  Trina subbed for me 
a day when she did not have to.  She has been here to take the kids to 
lunch for our curriculum conversations, here to greet the kids with a smile 
and a hug every day she has been in the classroom, here to plan activities to 
participate in conversations, to teach math and to contribute to news and 
journals.  She has been our teacher as well as our friend and she will be 
           The kids are also in a position to offer wonderful advice for a new 
teacher.  They have insight about the teaching and learning process that Trina 
won’t get in her university methods classes.  Of course there will be those kids 
who say to have recess all day, but there are also the serious ideas about 
making time for reading books aloud, for writing and publishing for workshop 
and for having plenty of hands on science demonstrations.   
          There was also the suggestion that we write our condolences for the 
death of her husband’s mom.  Garrett said that he thought it might make her 
sad if she was reminded of this family tragedy.  But the consensus was that it 
makes us feel better to know that someone else is thinking about us in our 
own sadness, that they are holding us in their hearts when we need comfort.  
And so we wrote.  With quiet music in the background, the kids thought and wrote 
and asked each other how to spell.  They used their new best cursive 
handwriting (OK, I had to insist for some) and paragraphs.  They filled pages 
with their ideas and good wishes and sympathies.  You can read books so 
well…  I would not take anything to trade for you…  I’m very sorry your mother- 
in-law died.  I feel that pain…  I appreciate the wonderful things that you did for 
me like giving me an awesome little notebook…  It is like you are locked up in my 
heart and you are the only one in that special place…  I will miss your nice hugs.  
I will miss your warm welcomes…  When you are a teacher be kind to your kids…  
When you come in you look goooood!...  Thank you for helping us develop as 
readers and writers…  Make up games that require throwing balls at each 
other…  I really appreciate when you helped me edit my piece about William…  I 
think you are smart, joyful, sweet and kind to others…  I would be a little funny 
and teach where the kids will understand.  I’m saying you don’t teach like that, 
I’m just saying it’s some advice…  It was fun to look at writer’s notebooks with 
different eyes…  Never let the class get too wild…  You gave us writer’s notebooks 
and inspired us to take them wherever we go…   Love and care for your new 
class…  Next year I hope you get a teaching job because you are a good teacher…  
I bet you will be an amazing teacher and you will teach the kids such wonderful 
things…  You always smell good.  That is probably why your skin is as soft as a 
blanket…  I know you are not gonna be mean like those other teachers…  Don’t 
be mean to kids because they might kick you out…  Don’t let my brother be 
crazy…  I am sorry about your mother-in-law.  We are hoping that you are OK…  
I hope the cloud of sadness will go away soon…  You are in the choir in church.  
You should sing with your kids…  I always appreciate your read alouds…   

I will always love you… 
        There is something so sweet about how young children look at the 
world.  They are so much less inhibited than us adults, so unguarded and 
honest.  I think when I grow up I want to be like a little kid. 
 I ran across this poem the other day.  I think it says a lot about how 
great it is to have little ones in our lives.  Thanks for all that you do.  Have a 
great weekend.                         Tim 

Author Unknown 

"Whose child is this?" I asked one day 
Seeing a little one out at play 
"Mine", said the parent with a tender smile 
"Mine to keep a little while 
To bathe his hands and comb his hair 
To tell him what he is to wear 
To prepare him that he may always be good 
And each day do the things he should" 

"Whose child is this?" I asked again 
As the door opened and someone came in 
"Mine", said the teacher with the same tender smile 
"Mine, to keep just for a little while 
To teach him how to be gentle and kind 
To train and direct his dear little mind 
To help him live by every rule 
And get the best he can from school" 

"Whose child is this?" I ask once more 
Just as the little one entered the door 
"Ours" said the parent and the teacher as they smiled 
And each took the hand of the little child 
"Ours to love and train together 
Ours this blessed task forever." 

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