Challenger School

Back to School Letters


For most kids, school is just a mere three weeks away. For others, it may have already started.

For the first time, I am getting ready to send my child to a school where I am not the principal. I am excited to be part of his schooling experience from more of a distance. I think it was difficult for Jadden and me to be so close in proximity during the school day.

On the other hand, I am anxious about ensuring that he has the best possible experience without me there. I recently attended a foster care class where the instructor recommended writing a letter to the new teacher, before school begins. The letter is an opportunity to tell the teacher about your child and what you feel her/his particular needs are.

I think that parents generally play it far too safe with teachers. I think it’s great that most parents trust their teachers wholeheartedly. I think this is a good foundation to the school-home partnership. This respect, though, should not be clouded by an unwavering faith in what the teacher is able to do or will do for your child. This is
why I am writing a letter—to establish firmly my expectations at the very beginning of the year.

I don’t mind asserting myself in the letter. I would love the teacher to know that Jadden loves animals, enjoys math and loathes reading. I would like her to know that he has a brother and a sister that he doesn’t live with but visits regularly. What I need her to know most though is that I have extremely high expectations for my child’s academic progress. If he is below level, I would love to develop a plan for getting him on grade level by the end of the year. If he is above grade level, I would love to hear how he will be challenged to apply his skills in real-world, authentic ways.

I am eager to share with Jadden’s teacher that he is a sensitive child who tends to give up easily. I am sure this will be important as she pushes him to solve challenging problems at a fifth grade level that require more abstract, conceptual thinking.

I want Jadden’s teacher to know that I am available by email or phone. I would like to hear regularly about Jadden’s progress. In fact, some kind of weekly communication is not too much to ask. I can get this update via email or through a home note, whichever is more convenient.

I will not be able to volunteer in the class or attend field trips. I will also include this in the letter. However, I want the teacher to know how involved I am and that I ask Jadden daily what he has learned and oversee his completion of homework.

Here is my draft of the letter. I welcome any feedback:

Dear Ms. Palmer,

I am thrilled that Jadden will be in your class this school year. I have seen your work with other children and have found your combination of high expectations.

Hopefully, this blog hasn’t bored you to tears. I hope it hasn’t been the equivalent of looking at someone else’s photo albums. I am sharing my plans for Jadden’s letter because I think we would all benefit from writing one. Not only is it helping set the stage for positive and ongoing communication with the teacher, but it is organizing me as a parent, ready to recommit himself to the work that I am willing to do help my son be as successful as he can be in school.

About author

Dr. Jim Martin

Dr. Jim Martin

Jim Martin is a principal in the Salt Lake City School District and foster dad to two boys. He is graduate of Westminster College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. He then went on to get a Masters degree in Teaching and Learning and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy. Jim has taught kindergarten, first, fourth, and fifth grades. This is his tenth year as a public school administrator. In his spare time, Jim loves theatre and has acted in over 30 productions. He is the artistic director of a local theatre company.

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