Opinion
Student Well-Being Opinion

What Families Really Need From a Teacher’s Back-to-School Letter

August 28, 2017 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Tom Rademacher

Our school year is upon us, and many of us are scrambling to set up our classrooms, get those first few weeks planned, and convince ourselves that, yes, we have to wear real, actual, big-kid pants to open house.

The beginning of the year is an especially important time to connect with families, but we often use it for some of our least important communication. Now isn’t the time for reminders about materials and copying and pasting your district’s tardy policy. Now is the time to let parents know what is most important to you as a teacher, what big goals you have for their students, and start forming the team that will get you there.

For your consideration, here’s my welcome letter this year. Feel free to use and adapt however you’d like.

Hello Parents, Families and Caretakers,

I would like to sincerely welcome you to the 2017-2018 school year. Before our year starts in earnest, I would like to take some time to introduce myself and my class to you.

I’m Tom Rademacher, your student’s 8th grade English teacher. Since my first year of teaching, students have found they prefer to shorten my last name to “Mr. Rad.” It was a little awkward at first,

but I’ve come to embrace it. I’m a bit weird, often sarcastic, and I will spend most of my time and energy over the next year caring about your kid.

I have things I like to do, and lots of things from lots of years that I have planned out and ready to go if I need them, but I really want to listen to you, to your students, to their peers, and develop a class with and for them, and I want to be as open as possible to what that may be. I don’t know exactly what will happen when we mix all of us together, but I will do my absolute best to teach to the students I have, to recognize the best parts of their potential, and to give them a year that is engaging and relevant and, if I’m lucky, occasionally fun.

This doesn’t mean it will be all fun and games. We have a lot of important work ahead of us, and I take the work we do seriously. And so, rather than a list of units we will work through or books we will read, let me share what I know will be true about this year and this class:


  • We will be talking about the world we are in, and it will challenge us, because we live in a challenging world.
  • We will build a climate in our room that is safe for the sharing of stories and perspectives, for playing with, testing, and evolving ideas.
  • We will explicitly talk about Race, Gender, Sexuality, Religion and other crucial pieces of our identities.
  • We will seek tolerance for all but the intolerant.
  • We will focus on empathy and cultural competency as essential components to understanding and engaging productively with our world, as foundational academic and social skills.
  • We will talk about the root causes of some of the most beautiful and some of the most awful things that people do and make.
  • We will search for and indulge topics and tasks that make us excited to read and write and make things.

If you’re concerned about my role in these conversations, you should know that I take my role as a teacher very seriously. Though of course I have many thoughts and feelings about the way the world works, I do believe it is not my job to teach my perspective in class. I will not seek to change the minds or beliefs of any of my students. I will seek to help them understand the experiences of others.

We will read things from many perspectives throughout the year, and I seek to not present any one of those perspectives as an absolute truth. More than that, we will work on the developing the muscles to understand difference and disagreement in a productive way.

Oh, and you should know I’m not really big on homework. We will be working hard every day in class, and as long as your student is using their time well, they likely won’t be bringing a lot of stuff home. If they need more than that, have them read a book. Have them write a story or start a blog. Have them build something or take something apart, or learn to code or write music. Inspiration is better than worksheets. Promise.

Please reach out to me absolutely any time you have any questions, suggestions, concerns, or observations. I work for you.

Tom Rademacher is the 2015 Minnesota State Teacher of the Year and a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). He teaches English in Minnesota. His book, It Won’t Be Easy, An Exceedingly Honest (and Slightly Unprofessional) Love Letter to Teaching, is now available. Reach him at mrtomrad@gmail.com.

Vector graphic under Creative Commons license accessed through Pixabay.

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Social-Emotional Learning and the Perils of Teaching as Therapy
SEL risks overburdening teachers with responsibilities they aren’t trained for, compromising their ability to build academic skills.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion Culturally Responsive Social-Emotional Learning: How to Get There
Bringing culturally responsive SEL into class can't be done as an add-on. It needs to be integrated into daily routines and academic work.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Fewer Teens Appear to Be Vaping. How Schools Can Keep the Momentum
A handful of studies suggest that adolescent e-cigarette use dropped substantially during the pandemic.
7 min read
Image of E-cigarettes for vaping. Popular vape devices
Nijat Nasibli/iStock
Student Well-Being Quiz How Much Do You Know About the Needs of the Whole Child?
Answer 7 questions to see how much you know about the needs of the whole child.