A Letter to Next Year

The last assignment I ask my 7th graders to write in June is a letter to next year’s team.  "Write to the students who will be sitting in your seat in September," I tell them.  "Let them know what to expect in this class.  Tell them how they can have a successful year in 7th grade, how they can be happy and productive and have fun.  Tell them what to look forward to, and what you wish you had figured out sooner. And whatever else you want to tell them, too."

And so for 20 minutes, they write, heads down, scribbling furiously.  I collect the letters and combine their bits of advice into one big letter.  Then I print it out, fold it, and put it in my top desk drawer.

On the first day of school in September, I pull it out and read it to my new students.  They sit with their empty notebooks and listen to the words of the students who came before them, very seriously, as if these are the voices of ghosts rather than just the kids who have moved on to the next hallway.  It is one of my favorite traditions.

I spent part of today reading letters, which is a lovely break during finals week.  Here were some of the lines that made me smile…

You might think it’s a little scary entering 7th grade, but it’s not. Prepare for one of the best experiences of your life and one of the most rewarding.

One tip for good writing is revise, revise, revise!

Mrs. Messner is true to her promises, like when she says she’ll do cartwheels down the hall if everyone turns in a reading letter on time. She only does this on special occasions. (If she is wearing a skirt, she does the cartwheels the next day she’s wearing pants.)

You will come out of this year reading, whether you come into it that way or not.

Keep a sweatshirt in your locker. Sometimes the social studies room is cold.

If you get a chance, read NEED by Carrie Jones. Best book ever.  And read SONG OF THE SPARROW by Lisa Ann Sandell. It made me cry, but it is great.

Don’t tell Mrs. Messner you’ve read a book if you haven’t. Trust me. She has read like every book on the planet.

Try not to get yourself caught up in DRAMA. Life will just be better if you don’t.

In literature circles, if it is one of the choices, pick THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak!\

If you don’t like to read, that will change. In this English class, you CAN”T not want to read some of the books she talks about.  And you’re lucky because sometimes Mrs. Messner gets books before they’re published. It feels cool to read books that only a few hundred people in the world get to read at the time.


Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. I can honestly tell you that I have never read so many books in just one school year, all thanks to Mrs. Messner recommending them. She is good at that.

My very favorite line, though?  It’s from the student who called me a "book genie" as he explained how it felt like I could magically find him the right book every time. I may just have to have that one put on a bumper sticker.

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