Pin It For the past ten years I’ve had my students write one of the most important letters they will ever compose.
You see this letter is to a very important person: themself.
When I started teaching a decade ago, at the end of the year I had my students write a letter to themselves, which I then had them seal in an envelope with a current photo. This envelope is returned to the school to me as one of the final homework assignments I give for the school year.
I then put these letters in a large, manila envelope and place that envelope in a storage box I only open twice a year; once to put a new set of letters in, and once to take an old set of letters out to mail.
About three years ago I sent out my first batch of letters, and a few days later one of my old students showed up in my classroom. I hadn’t seen this boy for quite a while, yet here he was. He smiled and I asked him how he was doing. It didn’t take long before he cut to the chase.
“I got a letter today, Mr. Z,” He said with a bit of trepidation in his voice.
“Really?” I responded. “Who was it from?”
He sat down in the chair across from me, and exhaled a deep breath. “It was…from me.”
There was a longish pause as we both sat there, not saying anything. Finally I asked, “So, what did your twelve year-old self have to say?”
The young man before me shook his head. “I don’t know, I didn’t read it…I don’t think I’m quite ready to read it yet, either.”
He paused and looked around the familiar classroom, as if reminiscing over days gone by. “I don’t remember what I wrote all those years ago, and I just wasn’t ready to read it…so I decided I’d come and visit you instead.”
He stayed for quite some time, and then eventually left. As he was leaving I told him that there was no rush, he could open his letter when he felt ready; after all, his twelve year-old self had waited this long, and could surely wait just a little bit longer.
Monday and Tuesday of this week my graduating sixth graders from six years ago will be getting their letters from their twelve year-old selves in the mail. On Tuesday my fifth graders will be writing letters to themselves that will sit in a box and wait for them for seven years.
I can only hope that these kids will give themselves the type of advice and reminders they are looking for in the future; after all, this could be one of the most important letters they will ever receive.