A letter to my students: Let’s celebrate your growth

The end of the school year is often when we celebrate student growth. If this were any other year, my school would be preparing for the annual “Night at the Museum,” an evening when our entire school becomes a gallery of student work. But of course, this isn’t any other school year. Still, I know how important it is for students to look back at everything they’ve achieved. 

Students don’t always remember how far they’ve come over the year. And kids who learn and think differently often have trouble seeing their strengths when it comes to school. When we praise students for their growth, we help them remember or see it themselves. This can help motivate them to continue learning and growing. That’s why I’ve written this letter to my fifth-grade students. 

I encourage you to write your own letter to your students. Personalize it for each student by adding a sticky note or a handwritten message to point out specific growth areas. For instance, I’m going to create a word cloud for each student to celebrate their individual strengths and achievements.

Teachers, as we wrap up this school year, let’s make sure we help students see and celebrate their growth.

Dear Students, 

I can’t believe it, but we’re coming to the end of our school year. While we can’t celebrate your growth and achievements together as we usually would, that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Let’s take a moment to look back at all you’ve done this year.

I saw you build skills and mindsets that will help you thrive as learners. You learned to set goals, focus on learning, and find ways to deal with stress as we practiced mindfulness each week. Your empathy skills grew as you learned to read each other’s cues during our class discussions and debates.

I saw your effort, motivation, and confidence soar throughout the year. You were amazed by your own courage as you spoke up in class for the first time or stood up to someone making bad choices. You came alive during our service project that provided over 4,000 stuffed animals for children’s hospitals.

When we transitioned to distance learning, you continued to develop, learn, and grow in new ways. For many of you, learning at home without the usual structures of school had its benefits. You learned to take breaks when you needed them. You learned how to create a workspace that works best for you. You developed skills and strategies you’ll need next year in sixth grade, like learning to work independently, problem-solving, and asking for help when you need it. I watched you persevere when times were tough.

Many of you used the time away from the school building to explore your interests — like growing a garden, sewing, and painting. You taught me about the issues you care deeply about, like pollution, poaching, and trash in the ocean. I feel good knowing the world is in your hands!

We all started off unsure and uncertain about distance learning. But in so many ways, you’re stronger because of the new and unexpected skills you’ve gained. As you look back at all of these accomplishments, here are a few things I hope you remember as you close out this school year. 

  • Lifelong learners ask questions. You’ve learned how to ask this year, so keep asking! 
  • As distance learning has shown us, your strengths and interests are always evolving. Stay curious. You are so much more than what can ever be shown with a test score or a grade. 
  • “There are friendships imprinted in our hearts that will never be diminished by time and distance.” —Dodinsky. Continue to connect with your friends and teachers until we can be together again. Don’t let distance stop you. 
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Master your growth mindset and use mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. 

Our goodbye will be different this year. We won’t have the closure of stacking our desks and chairs. We won’t be able to sit in a circle together. I won’t be able to hug you. But we can still chat, laugh, and tell stories. I can still tell you how lucky I was to be your teacher. We will still share our memories of our year together, a year we can say with certainty is one we will never forget. 

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About the author

About the author

Beth Maloney, EdD is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher in Surprise, Arizona.