Read Before You Proceed!

Read Carefully....

The following letter contains 2502 words that will begin to shape your fifth grade year. Be sure you have time to read them all carefully. You may like to have your parents sit and read with you so you can all be excited about fifth grade together.You should also have dancing shoes on (true story) and a video camera handy (extra credit).

Ready? Of course you are! Because you are about to become...

Fifth Grade and Fearless!

I am excited for the year ahead - but first, I need your help in knowing what next year is going to look like.

Yes, your help!

What next year holds, is, in large part up to you. I have my plans, my ideas, my goals....what about you?

I have been teaching for 16 years and every year, I begin the school year as a different person. I decide on that first day and then every day thereafter, who I am as a teacher. What is important to me. What I want to accomplish. What I want my students to see when they come to school. I choose that. I don't let other people tell me who I will be and I don't just be who I think other people want me to be. I read, I think, I write and then I decide.

Who Will You Be? (This is a big question - take your time to think about this!) Will you be the kid who has brilliant ideas? The kid who loves math? The kid who looks to help other people? The kid who......? Fresh start. Clean slate. We all get one (that includes you!) and we all get to begin fifth grade as the person we want to be.

What is important to you? (This is another big question and one I am really curious about so I will ask it twice.) What is important to you?

There are lots of things that are important to me: fearlessness, ruckus making, passion, my husband and my dog (you will get to meet them!) sharing ideas, reading, being able to have a conversation, making things, discovering things, sharing what I know, sleeping in, staying up late and knowing when to say sorry.

As a teacher, there are a few more things that are important to me:

* Having a relationship based on respectful, open communication. I promise you that no student I have ever worked with has ever 'gotten in trouble' for respectfully sharing their opinion with me. In fact, it usually makes me like and respect you even more!

* Having my students as co-creators - I want your input to our units. I have the skeleton plan for what concepts we will explore but this is an inquiry based program! There are no things we 'must' do. We are inquirers, thinkers, explorers - right? Be prepared to help decide where our learning will go.

* You won't get grades, you might get test scores every now and then but you will, for sure, get lots of feedback and more importantly we will engage in dialogue about your work. That means we both talk. I am not the person you should be trying to please or perform for. That person is the one who looks back at you when you brush your teeth. Your objective is to impress the pants off that person. I am here to help you do that and so are your classmates. The chance to discuss, review, revise, rework, tweak and try again - not a punishment, a chance to show yourself just how awesome you can be.

* I believe in collaboration. I love to share ideas and get ideas and try new things and even when those things fail, I know I am just one step closer to finding what does work. I encourage you to be generous with your art - whatever that may be. The more you give away of yourself, the more you will grow and the more your awesomeness factor (as calculated by The Universe) will exponentially explode (true story).

* Inquiry is where it's at. I have a quote I love by a guy named Tony who loves learning. "No one cares what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know." Think about that. Chew it over. We can all google and find stuff out - but then what? After we know stuff, what we do with it = inquiry. And that is what the world cares about. Me too. You?

* Time is precious. So are you. I don't like wasting time and I especially don't like wasting your time. That means I try to come to school ready, fired up, and prepared to make a ruckus (I like to think that a 'ruckus' is the sound your brain makes when it is challenged to be creative, thoughtful, inquisitive and world-changing - it is a beautiful sound). Some days I forget to put my Awesome Pants on. We all have those days and I hope you will go easy on me when I have mine.

* Technology is part of the process. I love technology because it allows me to connect to new ideas. I like to think about what I want to do and look for tools to help me do it. I want to hear your ideas on technology and what works for you. I encourage you to bring your own computer or iPad to school if that is what helps you connect to your best ideas. I was thinking about going 'Paperless' next year! Thoughts?

* We are not in this alone. We are a community: our class, our families, our school, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. I bet you can think of ten amazing people who do amazing things right now. We need to hear those people's stories. Your mom and dad should be on that list. They are awesome. (Assignment one; email me List of Awesomeness about people in your family* -*family = people you love and are connected to even if they don't happen to live in your house or share your last name).

* I like to take some risks. I hope you do too. It is scary sometimes and it fails sometimes but sometimes, more often, it is just A-MAZ-ING! Someone smart once told me that "Fear and Excitement are shades of the same color". Cool, huh?


(Feel free to pause for refreshments)

OK...if you made it this far and are still with me, congratulations, you are a rockstar. Stop reading right now and do some kind of victory dance. (Hopefully you are reading this in a public place and people are watching and I bet they are thinking, "I should dance more...."). If you are reading this with your family, make them dance too. Are you dancing yet? No? Afraid you will look silly? What is the worst that could happen? Even if it was a four second shimmy, I hope you danced. (I am dancing as I type - true story).

So....what now? How can you best prepare for the extreme awesomeness of fifth grade?

  1. Have a great summer! Be extraordinary.
  2. Please read "Wonder" by R.J Palacio before you come for the first day of school. We will be talking about it and it would be a downer if you hadn't read it. I have a copy you can borrow if you need to. I have read it but I plan on reading it again just before school starts.
  3. If you have any questions you can always email me. Anytime. No question to big or too small.
  4. Think about what I said about being who you want to be. Most importantly, remember that everyone else in our class is thinking about that too. Be gracious to those who are brave enough to set lofty goals and make the effort to become an even better version of themselves.

There is a sticker on the back of my car. Actually there are two. One says "New Zealand". That is where I am from and I love it. It makes me smile and think of home every time I see it. The other one says, "Make School Different". Will you help me do that? Make. School. Different. Here is my vision for what that means. What is yours?

Despite having now used almost two thousand five hundred words, there are no words to describe how excited I am about working with you next year!

Here's To Being Fifth Grade and Fearless!

♥ Mrs. terBorg

PS. If you didn't get up and dance before and are now wishing you did, there is still time to do it. Anytime. Send me a video with your best moves (extra credit).

When you have had a chance to relax, digest this letter (maybe talk about it with your family or friends) and get your fifth grade brain tuned up, I would love for you to write to me to introduce yourself, ask questions, maybe respond to something you read in this letter that made you think.

My contact information is below.

I look forward to hearing from you before the end of the summer!