Proud Letters

Today was one of those lovely moments in teaching where you see an idea you’ve spent months planning come to fruition and do some good. Today was the day of the “Proud” letters for Year 11.

hogwarts_letter_by_emilywhetstone-d4m7bsn

A letter of hope…but not delivered by owl!

Back in January, I wrote to all Year 11 parents and carers asking them to write a letter to their young person to show their support, offer them advice, and motivate them in the run up to their exams. I got the idea from James Heale at #SLTeachmeet back in May 2013, and blogged about it here. I later found out the idea originated with Chris Edwards. It was so simple, but the potential for impact was so great. How often do any of us receive a physical letter any more?

Over the course of February and the beginning of March, the letters came in. We’d provided a stamped return envelope with the mailing, and a sheet of paper, to make it as simple as possible for families to participate. And participate they did! Of course, not every family returned a letter, and there may be a whole host of reasons for this, but nearly three quarters of the year group’s families did. Our Headteacher wrote a letter which he personally addressed and signed to all those students who hadn’t had one from home, so there was something for everyone to open.

We’d also asked families to keep the scheme secret, so that the delivery of the letters came as a surprise today. Of course, it wasn’t a complete secret, and some of them were expecting it, but for most it did come out of the blue. Today Year 11 had a special assembly with the Head focusing on revision advice and approaches (you can see this on our school’s revision centre webpage), followed by a session with tutors working on memorisation techniques. We then distributed exam timetables and a revision action plan template, along with blank revision timetables – and the letters. The letters were designed to motivate the students, giving them the push into serious revision planning.

There were tears, of course – and smiles. So many smiles. Having spoken to many of Year 11 today, they were so grateful for the letters, and many of them said that it had genuinely motivated them to revise more. They were re-reading them in the queue for tuck and lunch! It was also great to have comments from some parents with the returned letters saying what a great idea they thought it was. My hope is that some of the students will go home today and discuss revision with their families prompted by this letter, and that they will see that home and school are working together to support them.

I’m very grateful to Chris Edwards for the idea and James Heale for emailing me over the template of the letter he’d used in his school. Moreover, I can’t overstate the importance of the commitment and effort that busy families have put into the project, many of them handwriting letters, and some contacting relatives as far afield as the USA and Australia to contribute. It all serves to show the students that we – the school, their families, and the important adults in their lives – genuinely care about them and their success.

We will definitely repeat the “Proud Letters” project next year, though keeping it secret may be a little bit trickier!

UPDATE: here’s a video presentation I prepared about Proud Letters for #TMCotham on 8th May 2014:

and here are some lovely tweets from others who have tried it:

 

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9 thoughts on “Proud Letters

  1. Pingback: Somebody’s Child | Freeing the Angel

  2. My children’s school did this when the students went on a camp together before their final year. They had to go through endurance, problem solving and bonding exercises with just the food and equipment that they had brought and carried themselves. They camped, kayaked and didn’t shower for a couple of days. Then they ended at a mystery destination where we as parents had sent along good clean clothes and toiletries. I bought new clothes for my kids so that they wouldn’t know theirs were missing. The whole thing had been organised weeks before.
    We also were asked to write letters telling our children how much we loved them and how proud we were of them. We wanted to emphasise that we loved them for who they were not for what they could do. We also wanted to emphasise that no matter what happened or what they did we would always love them and be there for them. As far as I am aware every single parent or carer wrote a letter.
    My four children are now ranging in age from 30 to 22. I don’t know if the school still does this since the executive have changed. I do know that each of my children have treasured the letters and the words in them and that as life has dealt them various blows since leaving school they have expressed gratitude to us for our support.

  3. Pingback: 2014 in review: my second year of edublogging | Teaching: Leading Learning

  4. Pingback: Getting revision right | Teaching: Leading Learning

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