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.

30 Replies on “A Letter to Next Year

  1. “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”


    Oh, those are so good. Thanks for sharing!

  2. That is so cool. I love the responses.

    The last year I taught 7th grade .. I had my students write me letters from themselves 10 years into the future .. I’ve moved out of state 6 times since then .. and that pack of letters still travels with me. The 20 years will be up in 2013 .. I wonder what they are all up to.

  3. I do the same thing with both my 7th and 8th graders! I include a survival guide to handling Mr. Walsh, though, so mine usually include things like, “Don’t EVER lean back in your chair!” or “He hands out Jolly Ranchers if you turn him on to good new music.”

  4. My favorite is the advice not to fake it. “She’s read like every book on the planet.” Love it. I love it when my students think that I’ve read every book in the library.

    Cartwheels in the hallway!?! How cool is that.



    But especially, “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.”

  6. Wow! You can tell you really made a difference in their lives. And what a nice tradition. I wish I had a cool inspirational English teacher like you when I was in school!

  7. Ah yes…I also had a few “Don’t talk while other people are talking, whatever you do. She’ll give you that line about ‘what listening looks like.'”

  8. Well…come to a class when everyone is there and turns in homework on time. And also note, I did not say they were pretty cartwheels…just spirited ones.

  9. I was just thinking the same thing: I wish I’d had a cool teacher like you, too. :>)

    Have you read “Close Encounters of a Third Grade Kind” by Phillip Done? He had some notes his class wrote to the next year’s third-graders. It’s a funny (and touching) book.

  10. I love, love, love this post! Great idea, I may steal it next year. Grin. But I identify with the excitement you share of turning kids on to books and reading. Very, very cool. Good for the next group of students. And an excellent way to end the year for you. Helps you remember why you love to teach. Thank you for a wonderful post.

  11. I want to leave a comment, “When you are my age you’ll be so glad you had a teacher like Mrs. Messner, I never did but I sure wish I did!”

  12. Wow! They sound like such a great group of kids– How incredibly lucky they are that they got you for a teacher– You really are one of those rare teachers who changes lives!