Dear future students,
You may not believe it, but as the summer is drawing to a close, I’m excited to get back into the classroom. I’m actually looking forward to meeting you, to learning your names, to teaching you strategies to write sophisticated papers, and to read those papers.
As I’m bringing up my lessons and creating our class calendars, I wanted to give you some advice. Hopefully you’ll somehow come around to this post so you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to the first day of school.
My first piece of advice is pretty basic, but considering absences I have seen in the tens, twenties, and ever thirties, it’s worth mentioning – if you want to succeed in my class, you have to show up. You can’t go far without being present, and being present is more than sitting in your seat.
When you show up, first, you have to come to class on time.
A Letter to My Future Students
Next, you have to have your required supplies – if your homework is completed but in your locker, it’s late. And I don’t accept late work (more on this later – I promise, you’ll thank me for this). If your books are in your locker, you’ll receive an unexcused tardy to go and get it.
Finally, to be successful, your mind needs to be present. A large part of your grade is participation-based, and at the end of each quarter, additional points are entered at my discretion based directly on my daily observations of you. Yes, that’s right, when I’m up there teaching or grading at my desk while you’re working, I’m observing you.
How I’m Like Santa
Not to frighten you, but I see you all the time – maybe not when you’re sleeping and maybe not when you’re awake like Santa, but I always find it interesting that students think teachers have tunnel vision and limited hearing. We don’t.
I see you when you’re mimicking my hand gestures to your friend across the room; I see when you’re one of the only students paying attention and taking notes, even if you don’t speak up in class; I see when you’re copying notes or homework when you think you’re being sneaky; I see when you’re inclusive to your classmates, even if I don’t point it out.
Just because I don’t comment on your positive or negative behavior does not mean I don’t see and hear what you’re doing. Sometimes, it’s just not worth my time in that immediate teaching moment to stop what I’m doing to point out your behavior.
I know you have several other classes and that you’re tired. I know you may not be interested in Mrs. Dalloway (although it’s actually a really cool story, one of my favorites) and that you rather be snapping your friends with some funny filter. I am a human, too, one who also has other things on her mind, other responsibilities, and interests, so I get it. I get you.
But if you want to be successful in my class, in college, and in life, I want you to learn to focus, to care about learning, to listen, to engage, and to push yourself – always push yourself, my friends, because nothing is worse in life than thinking you know and have it all. Nothing is worse than stagnancy.
A huge pet peeve of mine is the unwillingness to follow directions or to be resourceful. I expect you to search for answers using your own wonderful minds and resources; I spend a lot of time creating writing resources that tell you EXACTLY how to integrate a quote properly, incorporate sophisticated transitions, and eliminate “be verbs,” for instance. When you don’t take the time to access these documents and read and apply them, I feel frustrated. Use your brains and use the information I give you.
I know how smart you are – I know how tech savvy you are too. When I don’t know the answer to something, I don’t wait for someone to answer it for me. Most of the time, I barely even have to exercise much brain power because Google does everything for me. Take the initiative to take your learning and questions into your own hands (first), and then reach out to me for support. You’ll learn that if you come to me with a question, I will point you in the right direction, not do the work for you.
You’ll learn that I have some strict policies, and you can show me your maturity by understanding the reason behind them and not muttering nasty comments under your breath.
I do not accept late work – my job is to prepare you for more than college, but for life outside my classroom. As someone who has gone through college, graduate school, and quite a bit more life experiences, I have a pretty good understanding of the higher education system and the workforce. On the whole, pending an extenuating circumstance, I do not accept late work. (The only exceptions are for long-term papers and projects, which will be deducted a full letter grade for up to two days late.)
I’m setting these standards for you so you can soon set these same standards for yourself without thought- it should never be a question that you’re turning in an assignment, whether for school or work, on-time. It’s a natural given. I’m trying to help you build the habits so these practices become second nature.
You’ll also see that if you build up a solid track record of honesty and integrity, if something happens and you honestly just tell me you didn’t complete something – no excuse, just being real – you’ll see that since we have that trust, you’ll be forgiven.
I’m not strict because I’m mean. I’m strict because I believe in you, because I care about you. If I didn’t care, I would let you do whatever you wanted, but I believe in and want the best for you.
Speaking of forgiveness, I want you to know that I expect honesty. However, in the event that you put yourself in a situation where you lie, cheat, or plagiarize, I want you to know something important, something that I don’t think students understand – I will not hate you! I will not think you’re the worst person in the world!
What will go a long way with me is if you show your integrity after a dishonest action – come to me. Make an appointment to talk to me as soon as possible to address the situation. I have seen it all, and I know how one small lie turns into a larger lie, which turns into a huge concocted story, that usually involves parents and administrators, that never turns out well. I know in the moment covering up your lie with more lies seems like the only way out, but I’m telling you now, up front, to just come to me. Right away. And be honest. And I promise to accept you with a kind, open heart in the spirit of remedying the situation and moving forward. But you have to initiate this.
Speak to any of my former students and you’ll know that kindness goes a long way in my life and in my class. I’ve seen meanness become almost the trendy thing to do, and I believe social media and cell phone communication propagates this.
I have a zero tolerance policy in my heart and in my class for unkindness at all. You don’t speak about other students in my class, you don’t speak about other teachers in my class. My class is a place of safety and learning; a place to challenge yourself and question your beliefs. We’ll talk about many controversial and relevant topics that we’ll disagree on. You’ll learn how to intelligently assert your opinion, listen to an opposing side, and respond with confidence and tact.
I never knew milk could tear apart a classroom (you’ll learn soon enough), but you will not attack, taunt, or mock. Kindness is cool and I want it to spill out into your personal, social, academic, and family life.
Why I Show Up
You may assume that, like you, I show up to class because I have to. Because it’s my job. Because I’m getting paid. Because if I don’t show up, I’ll get fired. But that’s not actually why I show up.
First of all, teaching is my job because I chose it. Nobody is making me teach or forcing me to show up every day. I teach because it’s part of who I am, part of what makes me complete. I teach because I love doing it; I love learning and every year, I learn more things about literature, writing, and my beliefs because I stretch myself. The day I don’t care to learn something new and take the easy way out is the day I’ll choose another profession.
If I chose my profession because of a simple pay check, I would choose another more lucrative job. I don’t show up because of the pay check; I show up for you, my students. You keep me going, learning, and growing too.
And it may be a large, though hidden, part of me and why I show up that I’ll share with you – I show up because I hope that in this school year, I can actually truly and really inspire at least one of you. Whether it’s igniting a passion for reading, giving you the tools and confidence to write, or making you feel that you have an important voice, if I reach one of you in a big or small way, I have enough fuel and motivation for the next years to come because I know I’ve done something right.
You’ll learn all of this soon enough, but I figured, why should I keep all this knowledge? Come in with an open, eager mind, a good attitude, and honesty. Advocate for yourself and take control of your learning. Use your resources and ask questions, not only of me, but yourself – always ask questions.
See you soon,