This past week we had one 540-pound vault bolted to the floor in the lobby of both Edison Middle School and Pinkston High School in Dallas. This now means that starting this year almost 100% of the students at both Pinkston and Sunset high schools will have the possibility of going thorough the Archive Project letter writing process four times, once upon entering middle school and again on leaving, and once again on entering high school and again on leaving. It was a very good week! Here are the instructions shared with Edison staff on Thursday which, with a few changes, are the same 8 steps shared with Pinkston staff:
1. All students and parents write a letter the first month of school. The first meetings with parents will involve a description of the School Archive Project and the need for them to write a letter to their child about their dreams for their child. They should write stories from their family history providing the roots from which they are sending their child into the world, as well as their dreams and hopes for their child. They should write about how they are willing to help their child achieve these goals. This letter may someday be a priceless possession for their child, and even their grand children, and great grand children. It will be a document for the family history just as the letters their children will write may also become valuable family history documents. Such letters will help students focus on their critical long term goals.
2. Both these letters, the parent's letter and the student's letter, are then placed together into one envelope. Each student seals their envelope and places their name and home address on it. These envelopes are placed into the School Archive, 540-pound vault, bolted to the floor in the school lobby in a location passed by all students many times each day.
3. These envelopes stay in the vault during the middle school years, until the last month of 8th grade, just before students leave for high school. Hopefully what these letters represent is a common topic of conversation during the middle school years. Teachers may use the existence of this letter, and the plans for future letters and the eventual Class Reunion, in times where future focus and motivation may be needed to help a student focus on work.
4. The letters are pulled from the vault the last month of 8th grade, returned to the students, to be used to write a second set of letters by both parents and students. Their dreams and life goals are updated to focus 10-years into the future. Both new letters are then placed into another self-addressed envelope.
5. This time the students themselves place their envelopes onto the shelf for their class inside the School Archive Vault. This happens on “Archiving Day,” a day at the end of 8th grade when 8th grade students pose with the class in which they wrote their letters for a photo. They stand together, in front of the School Archive Vault, holding their letter. After the photo they place the letter into the vault themselves. They know they will receive their letters back as they return for their 10-year 8th grade class reunion.
6. They each receive two copies of the photo taken that day, one for them and one for their parents. On the back of the photo are the details of the Archive Project including the estimated dates and details for their 10-year 8th grade class reunion.
7. It is recommended that the 10-year reunions happen the week of Thanksgiving. Then the current students will have 6 months to digest what they hear before they write their own final 10-year letters focusing 10 years into their own future. A school tradition has been established.
8. The details on the back of the photo include the fact that, at the Class 10-year Reunion, they will also be invited to speak with the then current 8th grade classes. They will be asked to talk about their recommendations for success. They should be prepared for questions from those decade younger students such as:
"What would you do differently if you were 13 again?"