Angry Businesspeople in Meeting --- Image by © Morgan David de Lossy/Corbis

Imagine–it’s the first day back at school.  You and your friends and colleagues are chatting it up in the library before the faculty meeting starts.  You’re excited.  You’re rejuvenated.  You are drinking flavored coffee and eating a yummy pastry with fruit filling.

The new principal introduces herself.  You love her energy!  She is an inspiration!  You can’t wait to see her lead the school to amazing amazement!  You will do whatever she says! Then, as the sugar is dancing on your tongue and the coffee is making you giddy, she walks around and hands everyone this letter:

Welcome back, teachers!

I am so excited that you are here. I hope you had a long and restful summer and are ready to start the year off with a bang!

Here’s what you have to look forward to:

We will be reading four books together this year. I have read them and love them all, so I know you will, too. However, because we have lots to do during the busy school day, you will have to read all of these books outside of school on your own. I know you have demanding lives, but I firmly believe that you will figure out how to fit in the assigned reading. I will provide you with a calendar and a list of pages and dates so you know exactly what to expect. If I can do the reading, you can, too.

We will talk about the books together, but you should come to our meetings with the assigned reading completed and discussion questions prepared. You might find some of the books a little challenging to read, but, don’t worry, I have selected the books that are appropriate for this group. You also may not be interested in the books that I have selected, but, again, don’t worry; I have selected these books from a list of recommended books for people just like you. They are books that hundreds of people have agreed have value. These books will help you grow as a reader and understand the world better.

In addition to reading and deeply appreciating these books, you will periodically be given pop quizzes to make sure you are doing the reading. Again, don’t panic. To help you better understand the books, you will complete a study guide for each chapter and work through your thoughts in a reading journal. You should write an entry for each chapter, and each entry should be at least half a page of a regular sized notebook. These will be handed in every week so I can ensure that you are keeping up with the reading. I will also give you lists of vocabulary words that I have identified as difficult, and you will define these words and hand in the lists.

There will be a test at the end of each book, and, additionally, you will either complete a project or write an essay for each book, but you will always have choices. Because we are reading four books and there are four quarters, it will take us about seven weeks to complete each book. You might be a faster reader than others in the group, but please don’t read too quickly. We can’t have discussions from the pages that haven’t yet been assigned.

If you get behind in your reading or if you get confused while you are reading, please come and see me. Even though I am busy and have a hundred other things going on in my day, I will stop what I am doing to work with you individually. Don’t be scared to approach me before school or after school about the problems you are having. I will be happy to help you, but I cannot read minds. If you don’t talk to me, I won’t know that you are having trouble keeping up or comprehending.

I am excited to tackle these books with you this year. Take a minute to write your thoughts and feelings about this year’s reading assignments on the back of this letter. You will be able to share in about ten minutes.

Sincerely,

Your New Principal

Now, think about what you would write on the back of this letter if it really were given to you.  Are you still on a sugar high?  Or has the coffee suddenly turned to molasses in your tummy?  Are you thinking different thoughts about that new principal?

Thank goodness this isn’t real.

But here is your real assignment:  Go back to the beginning of the letter and change “Welcome back, teachers” to “Welcome back, students.”

Read the letter again.  At the end of the letter, change the principal’s signature to your name.  Can you do it?