I really enjoy the beginning of each new semester. I'm excited, and more importantly my students seem excited to be here. They all have goals and personal dreams, and I'm eager to help them reach their goals.
However, I'm also a realist and know that all these students who start with me aren't going to be with me by the middle of the semester. They'll get overwhelmed or something will come up, and they'll stop attending.
Because I like to plan for the worst--I carry two sets of jumper cables with me in my car--a couple years ago I started doing something that really helps retain students and get those who have stopped attending my class to jump back in. Additionally, it's a great diagnostic tool that helps me introduce brainstorming, and lets me see students' ability to critically think and write.
It's called the Self Motivation Letter.
First ask students to take out a sheet of paper. Then explain the concept of brainstorming. Then ask them to brainstorm and come up with five reasons why they are in school. Also, ask them to brainstorm two reasons they are taking this class.
Next, have them share that information with a new friend around them to demonstrate the idea of brainstorming.
Then, tell them to keep those brainstormed ideas in their folders or with them tonight as they have an assignment which uses those brainstorming ideas.
Next, hand out the letter assignment below, and tell them it is due back the very next class period.
Homework Assignment 1--Motivation Letter
Welcome to the first day of ______________________________!
I know that the first day of a new class can feel overwhelming, and I understand that you may be feeling a slew of emotions today including excitement, nervousness, and uncertainty. Please understand that I have felt the same way many times when starting a new class, and it is natural. However, please also realize that while you may feel this way, I believe you came to OKCCC to achieve great things, and one of my most important personal missions is to assist you in reaching your goals of doing well in school and in this class. I'm here for you!
Please assist me in this task by assisting yourself.
You hold the key to your success, so as homework tonight, I would like you to ue your brainstorm list we completed in class and add to it. Then, with that information, write a letter that outlines a plan for your future success in this class and in college.
In doing so, please reflect upon the following topics and then NEATLY handwrite or word process a full one or two-page letter to yourself which explains in detail these issues:
Why am I taking this class?
Why am I in school?
What do I hope to accomplish this semester?
How will I accomplish these goals?
What do I hope to accomplish in this class and why?
How would I feel if I dropped this class or out of school altogether?
Then, please proofread, sign it, and stick it in an envelope. DO NOT SEAL THE LETTER!
On the outside of the envelope please write your address as though you may want to send the letter to yourself in the future. Do not seal the envelope as I want to be able to read it so that I may assist you in reaching your goals any way possible.
Finally, purchase a postage stamp and affix it in the top right hand corner of the envelope.
This assignment is due next class.
Evaluation: You may choose to bring extra envelops and stamps if you feel your students can not afford them or might forget them.
Take up the letters at the beginning of the next class period, and grade for completion. Be sure to read the letters as a way to better understand your students and get a good diagnostic feel for their writing abilities.
Application: If a student stops coming to class for two weeks--or a time in which has caused you to feel concerned for his/her success, just seal the letter and send it to him/her. The student will return to class.