What follows is the letter I composed to my third grade students, to be sent to them on our last day of school.
Dear Third Graders,
It has been an unforgettable year. Many years from now, you will look back on 2020 and your third grade year and realize you lived through a very historic time. I know I will never forget this school year or any of you. Just like I hope I might live in a corner of your memory (and maybe your heart), students leave their marks on teachers, too. I will remember the fun we had while learning together in room 215 and the ways we came together and continued learning through our screens.
It hasn’t been easy.
When we left our classroom on March 13th, I never imagined we would never be back there together as a class. Learning (and teaching!) from home has been full of challenges. Together, we realized that we needed flexibility to try different platforms and programs. We needed persistence to keep going and try a new way when the way we thought it would work...didn’t. We needed resilience to pick ourselves up and try again. We needed empathy to understand that all of us were doing the best we could in very complicated times. Being flexible, persistent, resilient and empathetic are skills that you will use time and again in life. They are lessons you will keep learning over and over again, but they are worth knowing. This year was a crash course in all those skills! I know we are stronger for the lessons we learned.
An important realization I’ve made is that learning happens all the time and everywhere- beyond our classroom walls and even when buildings close. Relationships and caring about each other also continues even when we are not in person together. Whether we were together in our classroom or learning virtually in Google Classroom, I hope you’ve always felt my love for you and my belief in you. I hope you know that I care about each of you deeply and know that you have untold potential. I hope you know that I care about you, your families, your lives. I always will.
There have been many lessons I’ve been asked to teach you this year. My scope and sequence has required me to teach you estimation, multiplication, division, and fractions. I’ve been required to teach you about geography, some history, about government and culture. I’ve taught you how to read the blurb of a book and how to think about the most important thing in a chapter. While not directly on my scope and sequence, I hope I’ve taught you that being a reader can change your life- can teach you, expand your mind, and help inspire new ideas. I hope I’ve taught you that being a writer can change you too and those around you- when you use your words to share your story, show appreciation, question unfairness and advocate for change.
This year, we’ve read countless books on our own and together. We’ve read many picture books and I read aloud 5 chapter books to you. I want to pause and think about the chapter books we read aloud together as a community. Each one has lessons I would like you to remember.
How you treat others matters. Consideration of others wants, needs, and feelings is important.
Your voice matters. Be strong and confident that what you have to say is important. Don’t allow other people to make you feel less worthy.
It’s never too late to make a new start for yourself. Allow others to help you when you need it.
Stories are light in a world that feels dark. Be the light. Understand that all of us have both light and dark inside but do your best to lean towards kindness.
“Once you learn how to do this, you will be forever free.” The answer to that riddle was “READ.” Reading will open countless door for you. The library is a powerful and important resource in your life that allows you access to so many books and new knowledge.
My hope for you is this: That you keep learning. Keep growing. Keep reading. Keep writing. Be kind. Be brave. Be flexible, persistent and empathetic. Our world needs you- your ideas, your perspective, your energy. I know you will do great things. I am counting on you to make our world a better place. I believe in you.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski