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Student Letter: A Promise of Discovery

As many of my regular readers know, I am a believer in the journey, and that belief has certainly carried over into my classroom, where once again it has materialized as the frame for my student letter this year.  Earlier this summer in my  TG2 post, Gradeless: A Culture of Possibility, I made mention of my personal drive to walk my talk, to make sure that my realities follow my ideals. This letter to my kids is an attempt to do just that, to create that accountability. I am not presenting the things in this letter as mere talk. This is the reality I want for my kids, the reality that I am holding myself to creating for my kids this year. When I say, “This is what I hope you discover on this journey,” I am really providing my kids with an informal contract, a guarantee that these things will present themselves and be part of their journey. Their sharing their discoveries at trail’s end will be their final. If they haven’t discovered these things by then, I will be deeply disappointed in myself, and I will tell them that when I read this letter to them on day one.  From there, I will have 179 days to do my best.

Dear Learners,

Welcome to Honors LA 10. I am beyond excited to begin and share this journey with you. And while I am not certain about all that we will encounter and experience along our way–or even where we will land at our journey’s end, I am certain that it will be unlike anything we have experienced in the past. And as we set forth to explore and experience learning, here are some things that I hope you discover along the way.

What I hope you discover on this journey.

  • I hope you discover the importance of relationships. My successes and/or failures have had everything to do with relationships in my own journey. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.
  • I hope you discover the value of mistakes and the necessity of failing. Mistakes and failing are paths that lead to learning. Follow them. You won’t get lost. In truth, you’ll probably find yourself.
  • I hope you discover that you own your learning. From the deepest recesses of my teacher being, I believe that this is the key to true learning. You have to own it, for when you own it, you take responsibility for it. I am responsible for joining and aiding you in your journey, and I enthusiastically own that. But you are responsible for your learning, young friend.
  • I hope you discover the unique power of your voice. Language is power, a power available to all. It is not reserved for a select few. You have language, which means you have power. I will help you find your way, but it begins with your believing that you have power. I so hope you make this important discovery this year.

  • I hope you discover that literature is a rehearsal for life. We will engage and embrace literature as a way to learn about the human experience. Literature is life. Life is literature.

  • I hope you discover that learning is a circle that often requires redo’s. I will create no ends to your learning. You may have as many attempts as necessary. I can control that. However, I cannot control time. Over that end, I hold no control. Time expires, but learning never ends. And as long as you are in my locus of control, I will always give you another shot. Always.

  • I hope you discover the power of a growth mindset. I firmly believe that our attitude about anything means everything. With that, I would like you to add a tiny word with gigantic implications to your learning vocabulary. Yet. I hope it helps you bridge the gap between “I can’t” and “I can.”

  • I hope you discover the power of reflection. I hope my “forcing” you to reflect on your learning each day will help you develop this essential learning skill for life. I will use the broccoli effect for this, “Whether we like it or not, broccoli is good for us.” Whether we like it or not, reflection is good for us. #sorrynotsorry #eatyourveggies #reflectionrules

  • I hope you discover that feedback is the most essential ingredient in learning. Travelers get hungry. The need for fuel will be significant for our sustained journey of 180 days. Fortunately, I have an unlimited supply of the necessary nutrient: feedback. I will not feed you grades. I will only offer feedback. It is the stuff of learning. It is the most vital thing I can offer you. I really hope you make this important discovery as well.

  • I hope you discover the value of community and the power of empathy. Though our learning journeys are unique, we all travel similar paths. When we come to realize that through our similar trails we share a bond, we begin to understand that we are not alone, that we can learn with others, that we can learn from others. When we connect with others, we learn. When we connect with others, we can understand. We will connect. We are a community.

So, we set out. 180 days from now we will arrive at some destination. But before we start down the trail, consider what I have said; consider what I hope you discover. I will be with you every step of the way, but you must take the steps. I cannot take them for you. Months from now, as we look back on our explorations and experiences, and you consider this list, I hope you have added them to your packs as mementos of our time together. Thanks for letting me join you. I am honored.

Let’s get started,


I am so excited to begin this next 180 day journey with my kiddos. I am eager to get to the doing, reflecting, and doing better that I so crave. I am hungry to learn. I am ready for kids.

Do. Reflect. Do better.

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