It’s back-to-school time in many parts of the U.S. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing, or re-publishing, much of my back-to-school content to help you start the new school year right. Today, I feature two “Dear Student” letters that I wish all students, of all ages, everywhere would receive from their teachers. The letters were written by Arin Kressa self-described “5th grade teacher in Ohio who is constantly learning.” Arin is on Twitter @KressClass and her blog is Hate Chalk.

The first letter encourages students to think about what their genius is. The second tells students they matter, and encourages them to let others know they matter as well. They are succinctly written and full of hope and encouragement – shouldn’t every student start the school year this way?


Dear 5th graders,

Hi! My name is Arin Kress and I will be your math and science teacher this year. We haven’t met yet, but every day this summer I’ve thought about you.

I know that sounds odd – but please keep reading. I haven’t thought about you individually, because I don’t know who you are yet, but I’ve thought about you collectively. I’ve thought about the amazing group of 5th graders that will cross the threshold of my classroom in just a few weeks.

  • I’ve thought about challenging you.
  • I’ve thought about embracing your differences.
  • I’ve thought about your strengths.
  • I’ve thought about your weaknesses.

And I have a secret that I can’t keep in for another few weeks.





Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but really you are. I know deep within you, your inner genius is ready to come out! I’ve worked with geniuses for seven years now, and let me tell you something – it’s amazing.  And this year won’t be different.

So, before you walk through my door on the first day of school, think about YOUR genius. What are you an expert at? What do you enjoy? What can I learn from YOU?  How are YOU going to change the world? I can’t wait to share my genius with you and for you to share your genius with all the other geniuses in the room: your classmates!

Ms. Kress


Dear 5th graders,

Today I learned what it means to matter. I know it sounds silly, but it’s a powerful message.  Two simple words – You Matter.

So many times we go about our daily lives and no one stops to thank us. No one seems to care if we go the extra mile. It’s odd really that we would find it odd for someone to tell us that we matter – because it’s such a simple thing to do.

So, I’m doing it right now – I want you to know that you matter to me before I even know your name. YOU are why I became a teacher. YOU will make a difference in my life. I hope to learn as much from YOU as you do from ME!

I want you to understand this:  YOU MATTER to your family, YOU MATTER to your friends, YOU MATTER to so many people – You already matter to ME! Stop right now and think about who matters to YOU. (Most likely you matter to them too!)

So here’s your first assignment. Tell as many people in your life that THEY matter to YOU and, of course, tell them why. (Don’t just run up to strangers yelling, “You matter!” You might get a lot of confused looks!) Please take this seriously. It may be just one of the most important assignments you complete all year.

I hope you are enjoying your summer, because the ride you’re about to embark on will be full of ups and downs and winding curves. One thing you will learn about me is that I hate roller coasters – but I can’t wait for the ride to begin that we will experience together!

I look forward to telling you in person how much you MATTER to me. I hope to see you at Open House on August 19th!

Ms. Kress

P.S. If you have a mobile device (phone, tablet, etc.), bring it to Open House! We have some fun, interactive activities planned!


Ever since I spoke the words “You Matter” at TEDxDesMoines in June 2011, I have heard from teachers and students from around the world who have adopted the #YouMatter theme. Many ask advice on instilling the #YouMatter message into the culture.

The Choose2Matter team has curated and assembled the best content on #YouMatter into a toolkit for transformation. The toolkit provides everything you need to hold a You Matter-themed professional development day, host a You Matter day throughout your school or in your classroom, and instill the message of mattering in your culture.

Click here to learn more and to order the toolkit.