Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Letter

To my students:

I want to start this off with the ever-popular "Wow, the year has flown by fast" routine. We are about 12 weeks away (give or take a few days for snow, testing, and other shenanigans) from the end of the semester. Maybe I should have sent this out sooner, but now seems like as good a time as any.

I first want to thank each and every one of you for your patience this year. It has been interesting, to say the least, getting to know you individually and as a class. I hope you have gotten to know me along the way as well.

As I sit here typing this on a Sunday night, the movie Twister on in the background, my puppy destroying what used to be my house slipper (though if you were to ask him, he'd say it was his, and he would be correct), I can't help but reflect on this year. Here are some observations that struck me along the way:

I expect the best from each and every one of you. I hope that you would expect the best out of me. This is something I strive for each day. I want everyone to learn something, whether it relates to math, school, or life. If I were to ask each of you why you are here, I expect to get a lot of different answers.

"I'm here because I have to be here."

"I'm here to learn."

"I want to go to college."

"I don't know."

...And so on.

The point is, we are here for different reasons. I was in your shoes 10 years ago, and in some cases, I was in your seat. I graduated from here in 2000. I did my best, but I could have done more now that I think about it. I sacrificed some things in favor of others, but I did my best in every class because that's who I was. That's who I still am, even if I forget that every once in a while. What I wanted from school was straight A's, a good education, and a way to learn new things. I got all those things and a whole lot more.

This school gave me a great education, and the teachers and people there prepared me for life after high school. Your administrators, your teachers, and everybody else associated with our school and school system want you to succeed. Every one of us will do what we can to get you there, but there's a funny thing about that:

We cannot do it without your help.

Time is running out this semester. With our schedule, even though we have ~12 weeks left, that is only 6 weeks of class time for us. There is still time for each of you to raise your grade, if you want to use it.

Failure is not an option: it is a choice. If you choose to fail, you will failing. But, if you decide you want to do something more, if you choose not to fail, if you decide you will do your best, I guarantee you that you will succeed.

Teachers love checklists. It is a way for us to keep things organized. Well, here you go. Here is a checklist for success, courtesy of me. This is my checklist for success for each of you. If you do these things, you will succeed.

1. Bring your materials to class. Your materials include, but are not limited to: textbook, paper, pencil/pen/colored pencil/crayon/marker/etc.
2. Do your homework! Wow, what a concept: if you do your homework, you will succeed. But, how can that be? This is two-fold: you get graded for homework (gasp!) and the more problems you do and see, the more you are likely to understand and remember.
3. Listen. Listen to me when I am talking. You never know what you might hear or learn.
4. Take notes. If I write something on the board, chances are, it's important. If you look through those things before we have a quiz or test, they might just help you on that. Wait, I think they have a name for that...yeah, they do. It is called "studying". Wow...
5. Ask questions. Here is a secret that I am willing to share with you: I do not know everything. In fact, there are several things I do not know. How do I learn about these things? I ask people who know. If you have a question, ask somebody. You can ask me, other people in the class, other teachers, your friends, your family, can ask just about anybody, and somebody is likely to know. If they do not know...
6. Research. While this might not refer to every case, if you want to learn how to do something on your own, do some research...teach yourself. Sometimes your best teacher is you.
And finally...
7. Smile. I've learned that if you have a positive attitude, sometimes that makes all the difference in the world. You wouldn't believe the difference in believing you can do something, and doing it well, versus not believing in yourself. Motivation: it's a good thing.

Here's the bottom line: for these next 12 weeks, do your best. I am going to do mine. Together, we'll get through this in one piece.

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