My Hope and Dream for You

A few weeks before school ended last year, I wrote my fourth grade students notes stating a “hope and dream” for each of them as they moved on to fifth grade. My goals were to help them feel proud of their accomplishments over the year and to encourage them to keep working hard in school.

Each note was unique, written on stationery in my best handwriting, and—because I’m a crafty type—each came in a colorful, handmade box with the student’s name on it.

While the presentation was fun, what mattered most were the words inside. The students had been thinking about their hopes and dreams for this school year since September. Their goals for themselves had been an important part of our classroom life throughout the year. We’d used them in creating our classroom rules, talked about them frequently, and revised them several times as the children’s skills and interests evolved.

Now, with our time together drawing to a close, much of the students’ work involved reflecting on the progress they’d made toward those goals. Writing my “hope and dream” notes gave me a chance to highlight an area of growth for each of them. I tried to be specific, and to make connections to personal qualities and challenges I knew the student would recognize.

For instance, to a student who’d worked diligently to overcome reading difficulties, I wrote:

Continue to work hard so that you’ll keep making steady progress. You have an incredible work ethic, which you should be very proud of.

To another who’d started out the year struggling with writing:

 . . . continue to write every day. You are a talented writer. I hope you start to think about getting your work published, with which I’m always happy to help.

I gave out the notes about ten days before school ended, at the end of the day. As I handed them out, I asked the students to wait and open them at home. This helped them deal with their inevitable urge to compare (“What did she say about you?”). Giving out the notes days before school ended allowed them to take what I said into consideration during their own end-of-year reflections. I knew it had worked when the boy who’d overcome his challenges with writing told me the next day, “What you wrote was cool. I’ve been thinking about that, too.”

Writing these notes also helped me as a teacher. When I sat down to write them, I realized that I knew some of my students better than others. Some were easy to write for, but others were a bit of a struggle, even though I’d been with them for a year. So this project also helped me set a new goal for myself—to spend more time throughout the upcoming year focusing on each of my students as individuals.

And now that it is next year, I plan to present this year’s class with my hopes and dreams for them in early June. I hope this gift carries them into summer vacation and fifth grade with feelings of warmth and encouragement.

Stacey Shubitz teaches fourth grade at the Learning Community Charter School in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Tags: Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals, Last Weeks of School