Why Teachers Need to Write a Summer Letter to Their Incoming Students

I can’t overstate the benefits of sending a summer letter to your incoming students.

Teachers can make a great first impression on their incoming students if they send an introductory letter over the summer.Taking time out of your summer break to tell students you’re already thinking about them has two great advantages: It lets you set expectations for the upcoming school year and sends a strong message of what the next 10 months of the student’s life will be like.

A summer letter, along with going to student sporting events, taking time to recognize non-classroom accomplishments and communicating positive news to student homes, is one of the little things that add up to a positive and productive school year.

Connect early, connect often

Because communication is the key to any good relationship, sending a positive and enthusiastic letter to students is a great way to set a positive tone. Take the time to welcome the child to your classroom, offer some background on your experience and write why you think your subject is essential for their growth. All these things foster positive feelings and generate excitement for the upcoming school year.

You also can ask students to send feedback via email or a Google form. A short questionnaire about interests, challenges and general information is one way to learn more about your students before the year even starts.

Set expectations

You want students to rise to your expectations for academic effort, classroom behavior, hoped-for attitudes and proper treatment of their classmates.

There is no such thing as a second first impression, so you have to make sure your summer letter highlights the most important expectations and sets the tone you want in the classroom.

If you can‘t be positive, at least don‘t be negative

Teachers don’t have to be happy and joyful all the time, but you are obligated to help children look forward to the experience of coming into your classroom. This doesn’t mean your class has to be fun — just make sure you’re sending the message that your class will be as interesting as possible, challenging for students and ultimately a safe place to learn new things and take risks.

Too many teachers accidentally send a doom-and-gloom message when all they really want to do is convey the seriousness of the subject matter. Strive to be serious, sober and positive.

Find a proofreader

Show your letter to your colleagues and have them critique it for clarity, attitude and overall quality. This is your first meeting with your students and their families, and having it go well is essential.

If you work with a grade-level team, ask if they want to collaborate on a letter. There is strength in numbers, and sending the same, large-scale message can have a powerful impact.

Paint a picture of the year

Don’t let your letter just be a recitation of rules. Spend much more time reviewing the topics that will be explored and the skills that will be developed. Giving your students a sense of the year is necessary so that they can settle in and focus on the learning rather than wondering just what is coming next. There is no benefit to keeping anyone in the dark about your classroom and curriculum.

An early, unexpected and enthusiastic letter will earn you far more credibility and excitement than anything else you can do over the summer. Let your students know all about your class, how excited you are to have them and what the year will look like. Encourage them to connect with you and you’ll be amazed at how strong the start of your year will be.

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Brian P. Gatens is the superintendent of schools for the Emerson Public School District in Emerson, New Jersey. He has been an educator for more than two decades, working at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. In “From the Principal’s Office,” Gatens shares advice, provides insights, and gives guidance on everything from what principals look for when interviewing teaching candidates to how to work with overly protective parents. His front-line assessments supply candid perspectives on school life.

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