Dear M’adri

education, photography

Dear M’adri,

I am so sorry about your loss. I know how close you were with your grandfather, and in the brief time I got to know him from the carpool line, I always enjoyed his kind spirit and warm smile. My thoughts are with your family in this difficult time.

I know you are worried about missing work while you’re gone. I have attached the assignments you will miss to this letter. Part of your homework is to write an acrostic poem with the letters of your name. I made an example for you below. Feel free to use any of the words I chose for you or to change them.

M’ADRI – an acrostic poem

Mature – a leader, a reader, this scholar sets the bar. Her sensibility and hard work will get her far.

Athletic – She’s the school’s goalie, and one of only three, 6th grade ladies to make the final team.

Dyslexic – Owning her challenges like taunts from a rival, this scholar defies the odds of reading and writing survival. The experts say she will be reluctant to read, while she ignores their predictions and volunteers to lead. For her, it might be more difficult and take more time, but this inspiring student loves to make her poetry rhyme.

Resilient – Tough is her middle name; determination is her game. All she does is win, because she never gives up or gives in.

Intelligent – Admired by her peers for her book knowledge, no one doubts this scholar is on the path to college.

I hope you feel encouraged, because every word in this poem is true. I’m here for you when you return to school, and in the mean time, you have my phone number if you want to talk.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

Dear Cristofer

education, photography

Dear Cristofer,

Do you have Alex’s pencil? I know this is a bizarre question for me to ask in the middle of your exam, and I am so sorry for interrupting you. A strange series of events has happened in my classroom over the last few minutes, and I need your help sorting it all out:

Just before class started, Alex entered the room and sat down heavily in his desk. He looked around frantically, breathing hard, like he had sprinted to class.

Alex [calling out loudly while the rest of the class is starting their Do Now activity]: “Cristofer has my pencil!”

Me [from across the room, helping Adjatay get settled in his desk]: “Cristofer isn’t in the room right now. He’s taking a test with Ms. Jimenez.”

Alex [louder, slightly panicked]: “Cristofer has my pencil!”

Me [slightly annoyed but still calm]: “Do you have another pencil you could use?”

Alex [yelling]: “Cristofer has my pencil!”

Me [swallowing frustration and walking swiftly to the other side of the room]: “Alex, I understand that Cristofer has one of your pencils. Do you have another pencil you can use? I have given out all my extra pencils today.”

Alex [still yelling, although I am standing at his desk]: “Cristofer has my pencil!”


Alex: “…But Cristofer has my pencil….”

At this point, I’m not proud to say, I snapped. Emotionally, that is. I certainly tried to snap his pencils, but he was right. There was nothing in his pencil pouch except a half-chewed eraser cap. I rifled through his binder rather dramatically. Needless to say, no one was working on the Do Now anymore.

Recognizing that the entire class was staring at me wide-eyed, I asked if anyone had a pencil they could loan Alex. Suddenly everyone was back to work, eyes on their own papers, no extra pencils in sight.

I’m sending this note with Ethan as a desperate plea. Do you have Alex’s pencil? If not, do you have a pencil he can borrow? I’m sorry to interrupt your test, but we’re in a minor state of emergency here.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

Dear Keenan

education, photography

Dear Keenan,

When you pretend to be what you are not, you become what you pretend to be. You are not a kid who doesn’t care about school. Unfortunately, when you played around on the reading diagnostic, you earned a score so low that you qualified for the Read 180 program. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great program, but you don’t need it.

In your attempt to convince your classmates that you’re cool, you took the easy route: playing dumb. Because of this, you will continue to attend Read 180 instead of staying in my classroom for morning advisory with the boys you are so eager to impress. Shaun tried his best on that reading diagnostic, and he scored above grade level. That’s not just cool, that’s admirable. He’s a leader for the right reasons. You could be too.

This program will reassess your reading level as you take weekly tests. I am challenging you to beat Shaun’s reading level by January. I dare you to be the best reader and leader the 6th grade has seen this year.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

P.S. – you should check out Walter Dean Myers. He has several books that I think you would enjoy reading. Start with Scorpions, and if you like it, try Monster next. Both books are in my classroom library.

Dear Jeremiah

education, photography

Dear Jeremiah,

I’m sorry I drank your Capri Sun. I was angry, and I was thirsty.

From the moment you walked into class, I could tell that you were being sneaky. I noticed an odd bulge in your sweatshirt and a mischievous look in your eyes. When I asked you if you had something hidden in your shirt, I could tell that you were not being truthful. You avoided my eyes, looked down at the floor and shrugged your shoulders.

Then, to my vindicated delight, when you stuck both of your hands in the air to symbolize that you were hiding nothing, the motion caused your Capri Sun to dislodge from its hiding place and slide to the ground.

Admittedly, I should not have picked up your Capri Sun, unwrapped the straw and slurped the sweet juice in front of you and your classmates. That was unprofessional and unkind. I took it too far, and I am sorry.

I trust that in the future, you will not sneak food or a drink into my classroom.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

P.S. – check your backpack after school. I couldn’t remember if the Capri Sun was Mountain Cooler or Pacific Cooler flavor, so I bought you one of each. Do not (I repeat do not!) drink these until you get home.

Dear Michael

education, photography, reading

Dear Michael,

You need to believe with every fiber of your being that you are an intelligent young man. I know that reading is a challenge for you, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you are “dumb” or “stupid.”

When I look at you – finger to the text, training your eyes and your mind to sound out the words you don’t yet know how to pronounce – I picture Jonas from The Giver. You have this ability to see beyond the words on the page. In some ways you’re limited by years of neglect from teachers who have passed you along without equipping you with the reading skills you need. And yet, every day I watch as you push yourself to overcome these limitations, gleaning the information you need to be successful from listening, observing, and applying your life experience to class.

Your comment in class today is a great example of your intelligence and thoughtfulness.

Me: “What makes Kira different from the other people in her village?”

You: “Hey Miss, could we say ‘unique’ instead of ‘different’? Different sounds negative to me, and Kira isn’t different in a bad way, you know? I mean she’s crippled, but she’s unique in good ways too, right?”

It’s not often a student who is reading on a 2nd grade level thoughtfully critiques a question I pose in class. You are a leader in my classroom, though I don’t think you see yourself that way.

When I call on you to read aloud in front of the class, I see you cringe with dread. But I also see Jerome, Lamar and Romone sit up straight in their desks and retrain their eyes on the story when you begin to read. Your courage inspires other hesitant readers to participate. The students in this classroom admire you. They want to do what you do.

Thank you for your leadership and your bravery. With perseverance and grit, reading will get easier. You will learn to read comfortably and fluently this year as long as you don’t give up on yourself and on the work I am giving you.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

Dear Isabella

education, photography

Dear Isabella,

You are no one’s property. Go to the restroom, and scrub those filthy words off your arm.

I’m less concerned about the Sharpie; it will come off with of lots of soap and water. What worries me is the meaning behind the words, and what this says about how you think of yourself.

Love is not ownership, and you are not a possession to be had.

Tonight for homework, I’m assigning you an extra myth to read. Not as a punishment, but certainly as a lesson. Write a five-paragraph essay answering the following question: According to the myth of Demeter and Persephone, did Hades or Demeter love Persephone more? Is it more loving to cling tightly to someone or to let her go?

You have a 98 average in my class after Tuesday’s test. You are too smart to believe that you are an 11-year-old boy’s property. If you will not hold yourself to a high standard, I will.

All my love,

Ms. Jackson