Tuesday, 31 August 2010 17:45

Tip #2: The First Day Letter

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Over the next several weeks the Teaching Tips will connect to the four beginning-of-the-year priorities I introduced last week.  This tip addresses the fourth priority: communicating with students’ familes in a proactive manner.

The First Day Letter is the educational equivalent of a movie trailer.  It offers a sneak preview of the year ahead, whetting parents’ appetite for what’s to come.  The First Day Letter is a sincere articulation of who you are, what you value, and what you hope to accomplish.  Your words paint a picture for parents of what the upcoming months will look like and create a sense of possibility, optimism, and excitement by charting the direction in which you want to take the class.  Writing a First Day Letter provides you with your first and best opportunity to establish your leadership of the class, build goodwill, and capture parents‘ attention.

The following list contains ingredients you may want to include in your First Day Letter.

• Biographical information about yourself

• Your educational philosophy

• Your personal and class goals for the year

• Major curricular emphases

• Classroom management system

• Highlights of the year

• How you will communicate with parents and how they can reach you

• A blank page at the end of the letter for parents to use to inform you about any special concerns, abilities, or interests that either they or their children have.

Though I refer to it as the First Day Letter, it’s a good idea to wait a few days before sending it home.  On the first day of school, parents are so inundated with paperwork from the school office that a letter from you may get lost in the shuffle.  I send a very brief note home the first day of school, maybe one paragraph long, introducing myself and alerting parents to watch out for a more detailed letter that I will be sending home in a few days.

I have uploaded The First Day Letter that I send home into the “Classroom Resources” section of the website.  I used the concept of “quality education” to structure my thoughts.  By organizing the letter around this central theme, I was able to present my beliefs, ideas, and expectations in a coherent, integrated fashion.  With quality education as my umbrella topic, I was able to connect essential ideas such as character, teamwork, and communication.  Without a broad theme, First Day Letters can too easily become long laundry lists of topics, unconnected to one another or to any larger idea.


New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.