Saturday, August 25, 2007

Welcome to Room 311

Dear Seniors,

Welcome to my room and to that part of your senior year you will spend here. Although I know the room belongs to the school, its d├ęcor reflects my personality and since I set most of the agenda for what goes on here, the room feels like mine and I treat it as such. I hope you will too.

I’m looking forward to sharing my room with you this year. I hope we’ll learn a great deal from each other in the time we spend together here. We’ll talk about books, about writing, about ideas, about life, and about each other. I hope you will find yourselves stimulated, challenged, and most of all, given plenty of food for thought. I know from many years' experience that we can both enjoy ourselves and learn a great deal from one another if we all approach what we do here in a spirit of cooperation and curiosity.

This is my thirty-sixth year as a teacher. I’ve been teaching so long it’s not only what I do, it’s who I am. For me, “I am a teacher” is a statement of identity as much as profession. What I do here is a big part of my life, and I hope you will be able to treat both the work and me with respect.

As an English teacher, my goals for the year are several: I want to expose you to some challenging and important writers, I want to challenge you to think carefully about what things mean, about what it is to be a human being. I want to help you write with greater clarity and precision, and I want us to talk together, in ways that count for us all, about some of the biggest, most important questions—Who are we? Why are we here? What really matters?
In order to work on these goals together, we all need to make this room a place where people can say what they think and ask each other honest questions. We must listen courteously and respectfully to each other, keep an open mind, be willing to reconsider our first impressions, and accept the responsibility of contributing to the conversation.

I believe in the importance of rituals to mark the passages in our lives. Therefore, as you enter this room for your senior year, I shake each of your hands, welcome you by name, and read you this letter. I have a similar ceremony for the last day we spend together in May. I hope the days in between will be filled with learning and growth for us all. (434)