Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Time Capsule Postmasters Needed!

School Time Capsule Postmasters help the letters and plans for the future that are written to and by students to follow them year to year.  Some volunteers will even be able to help students connect with their letters from the school time capsule a decade after their graduation!

Traveling back in time is one of the most valuable journeys students take in a classroom, when they truly connect with the past, with history.  Too many students never take that journey with parents and relatives, connecting with their own family history. The Time Capsule Project changes that. Students and their parents write letters to each other for a decade, starting in the 3rd grade, documenting their dreams and plans for the future, along with their family stories written down by relatives to be passed to future generations.

These journeys are made possible by volunteer Time Capsule Postmasters.  They are the volunteers who deliver forward these priceless letters.  Each year a student stores all the letters they have from family with the letter they write to themselves planning their own future, in one large self-addressed envelope.  The job of the postmaster is to organize and store these envelopes for each class so that they are returned to the child the next school year before this annual letter writing starts again.

Want to help deliver this priceless mail? 

Your work will make the School Time Capsule Project possible in the school or schools you care about.

We now not only need Time Capsule Postmaster Volunteers in 20 Dallas ISD Schools: 6 elementary, 10 middle and 4 high schools, all on the south side of Dallas, but any school can be encouraged by volunteers to start this priceless project.

You can also help start Time Capsule Projects in any school or schools you want to see improve. Share this project information with the principal. Ask if this could become a Parent Teacher Association Project. (It could be a project that helps build and envigorate the PTA!) They could raise the $900 now required to purchase a 700-pound vault from Costco.com, delivered.  That is the size vault now being used in most schools.  It has 43 cubic feet of inside space.  See below how the smaller vault from 2005 had to be replaced due to "too many letters!"

Share the School Time Capsule Project Manual from these pages with the school, and especially the teachers most involved in teaching writing.  This is a writing project that helps students experience the power of writing over time.

This writing exercise, carried forward year to year by your volunteer "Postmaster" work, will show students the power of writing.  Writing is too often the weakest link in the education of our students!

These goals are possible!

Simply helping letters that students, parents, and other important relatives write, to get back to the student a year, or a decade later, makes it all possible!

Imagine handing out year-old letters to 5th graders.  Year-old letters are very old to most students.  Then imagine doing it 10 years later at the 8th grade and 12th grade 10-year reunions!

Volunteer School Time Capsule Postmasters are needed to help these goals be achieved. Their work makes a system possible that focuses both students and parents on their own roots & goals, year by year, from pre-k through graduation.  They help the 10-year class reunions happen!

Some of those attending the ten-year reunion May 2, 2017 for Quintanilla's 8th grade class from 2007.




Each postmaster invests possibly 40 hours a year helping store hundreds, if not thousands of letters parents and students write for the School Time Capsule Vault, a large 500 to 700-pound vault usually placed in the school lobby, a place students and parents pass as often as possible.

It begins with pre-k enrollment when each parent is asked to write a letter to their child about their dreams for them. The letters are written each year and go into the vault in the envelope for each child.

This process changes by the third grade when two annual writing assignments begin. Students write a letter to each of their parents, and may expand in later years to favorite relatives, especially grandparents. Students write to ask for letters back about dreams the writers have for the student and for a story from the writer's personal history. Students should always immediately read letters they receive back. They then ask the writer any questions they may have.  Hopefully this will lead to those priceless conversations we should have more often with our children and grandchildren.

Honorable Trini Garza, former DISD Trustee and Bill Betzen on 1-17-19,
with the old 2005 Quintanilla vault and the new 700-pound vault.
Too many letters for the old vault! Nice problem! Since 2015 Quintanilla has
consistently remained one of the 5 best of all 33 DISD middle schools.
The second writing class is when students prepare the self-addressed envelope to hold the letters collected.  Then the student writes a letter to themselves about their own plans for the future while the postmaster and teacher double check addresses on the envelopes. (Such accuracy is critical!) 

A year is a very long time. Students change significantly.  Thus the "Time Capsule" term is appropriate from the perspective of both the student, and their parents who see the massive year-to-year changes every child's life reflects.

Postmaster(s) make this system possible. They manage the archiving system so that they can personally hand back to each student the envelope they prepared a year earlier.  They will see that twinkle in the student's eye as students try to remember what they wrote a year earlier.

The letter writing starts as parents write their first letter to their child about their dreams for them.  This letter goes with the pre-k application. It is the first of 14 annual letters to their child about their dreams for them.  These letters will develop and gain detail as their child grows.

The Postmaster(s) will also help for the special 10-year-in-the-future dreams and plans that are documented in the 8th grade, and then again in the 12th grade.  They will ultimately be helping to coordinate those 10-year 8th grade and 12th grade class reunions.  At the high school level they may simply staff the "Time Capsule Table" at the traditional high school 10-year reunion.  They will pass back the letters written 10-years earlier.  Imagine handing 28-year old adults letters they had written to themselves their last year in high school. Such reunions will begin in 2020.

2015 was first 10-year reunion for the first Time Capsule Project Class of 2005.
2015 was also the year Quintanilla had the highest DISD School Effectiveness
Indices (SEI) Score of any DISD middle school, for the first time! System
improvements now speed up such improvement to three years, not 10.

I personally consider this to be the most rewarding volunteer work possible.  You will see a school change before your very eyes!  Your work allows students to begin to know in more detail their own family roots and make their own plans for the future, updating their plans every year.  Grades and behavior both improve! Student confidence grows!  Then you see tears of joy at the class reunions as they are thankful and celebrate what they have achieved.

Please email me at bbetzen@aol.com about becoming a Time Capsule Postmaster. You may even help start such a project in any school you want to change. Let me know your plans and I will help in any way I can. Use the word "Postmaster" and they may know what you are calling about.

To see more details about the project, read the manual that is found at www.StudentMotivation.org.

This is an open source project that is ran independently by each school.  We only ask that Project improvements discovered be shared.

Your questions are welcome.
Bill Betzen, bbetzen@aol.com

Thursday, April 25, 2019

School Time Capsule Project Manual

(Print out this posting to have directions available on the School Time Capsule Project.)
Student achievement soars
knowing roots and goals!

====== pk-12 - Project Manuel ======= 

As of October 2018 there are 6 elementary, 10 middle, and 4 high schools in Dallas ISD that have School Time Capsule Projects.  Each of them have a 500-700+ pound vault, prominently located in the school hallway or lobby, to hold these priceless pk-12 letters from year to year, and for the 8th and 12th grade 10-year reunions. Volunteers are being established at each school to keep letters organized so they follow students, and to ultimately plan 10-year reunions.

Student motivation and parental involvement are the goals.  The process begins as parents enroll their child in Pre-K and each write the first of 14 annual letters to their child about their dreams for their child.  It is explained this will be an annual letter that will be increasingly easy to write until the child graduates high school. Each letter should include another story from the parent's history so their child becomes familiar with their family history and their roots.  


This letter writing will hopefully help lead toward a life-long process of their child becoming grounded in their own family and heritage! At the same time students are reading their parents dreams for them each year. They are slowly building toward their own more solid written life goals that are annually updated after third grade.

Before 3rd grade parents write out their dreams for their child each year as they enroll them for school. That practice changes in third grade as parents begin to respond to a letter their child writes to them asking for a letter about their parental dreams for them and one story from their family history.

The student is encouraged more as the years pass to write letters to additional people important in their lives such as relatives, grandparents, close family friends.  During this process t
he student's view of writing, and the value of writing, will change.

As the project evolves parents and the other letter writers will begin quietly planning forward each year thinking of the story they will share in next year’s letter. It will hopefully increase the frequency of families talking about their family history at home.
As students receive letters from a parent or relative they immediately read them and ask the writer questions about the letter.  They want to understand it well. They then bring all the letters collected to school for the day a second letter is scheduled to be written, the student's letter to themselves about their own life plans. 
In school that day they first prepare a self-addressed envelope to hold all their letters. This envelope should have the student's address, email, and cell phone numbers on them (as available), as well as another relatives address for backup. Then, as the teacher checks for potential errors on the self-addressed envelope at each students desk, students write a letter to themselves about their own dreams for their future, and how they plan to achieve those dreams.

All letters are considered confidential unless the parent or child wants them to be read by others, or by their teacher.

The letters go into each student’s self-addressed envelope and into the School Time Capsule Vault, separated by class. They remain in the vault until just before the same writing project the next year when they are returned to students.  The same process is then repeated. 
It is recommended that the last elementary school letters follow the student to middle school, helping to make an often difficult middle school transition into one that is more positive. It helps as letters from elementary school are read in middle school to continue the life planning process.

The exceptions to this process are in the 8th and 12th grades when all letters are written planning 10-years into the future. Those two years all letters are then gathered into an adequately large self-addressed envelope that will remain in the School Time Capsule until the 10-year reunion for the student's class.  


It is recommended that 10-year reunions be planned just before Career Day so that returning students can be asked to volunteer to speak on Career Day.  They will speak about life after 8th or 12th grades, their careers, and give their recommendations for success to current students.

Every school needs a volunteer team to help make certain these priceless envelopes follow the students year to year. These volunteers eventually help plan the 10-year reunions and send out those notifications, both online and through U.S. Mail.  They manage the re-connection with former students.  

======== End Summary ========

History: The School Time Capsule Project started in 2005 with only 8th graders writing letters to themselves for 10-years into the future. That project immediately showed positive results as the high school most students attended gradually began to have fewer students drop out. More students were successfully transitioning to the next grade. Graduation rates rose from 33% to over 70% within a decade.
  
In that same decade the discipline problems at Quintanilla dropped to 14% of what they used to be as counted by referrals made. Student pregnancies dropped significantly. In 2005, the first year 8th graders wrote letters, a girl ran out of the classroom leaving the future planning writing exercise.  She knew she was pregnant. How that would change her future was too much for her to face.  Active written plans for the future are the most effective birth-control available.

It took a decade, but by 2015 the School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) for Quintanilla was the highest of all DISD middle schools.  However, Time Capsule Project changes made, moving letter writing to all grades and adding the first letter written to parents & relatives, now accelerate such school improvement to about 3 years in a normally resourced school.

In 2009 parents were first invited to write letters to their child before the student wrote their letter to themselves planning their future.  This followed a brilliant idea by Ms. Thompson, a teacher.  The principals and/or teachers would send a message home asking for such a letter, but the percentage of students receiving letters back from parents never went above 30%.

That changed dramatically in May of 2016. Quintanilla Language Arts Coach, Nicki Lincoln, had two brilliant ideas to improve the Project.  First she wanted students to write their own parents requesting the letter back themselves.  It would be a Language Arts writing project. Second, she wanted all students in all grades to write such letters, writing one each year and reading it a year later until the 8th grade when the 10-year letters are written.

This expanded the positive effects of the Time Capsule future focus to the entire school.  All students would receive back the letters they wrote the next year so they could read it and improve the letter they wrote that year.  The 8th graders received back their 7th grade letter, studied it, and then at the end of the year they wrote their final 10-year letter. (As this point, if the school wants and students want, larger envelopes can be used so that all the letters from all three years could be placed into the Time Capsule for safe keeping for the next decade.)

It was an immediate success!  Quintanilla teachers were reported in tears due to the results when as many as 85% of student received those valuable letters back from their parents and caretakers. 
This started the recommendation of annual letter writing by all students from 3rd grade through 12th to help then connect with their roots and their goals more each year.

This plan was tested in 2016/17 at Browne Middle School, a Time Capsule Project School for 2 years but still in its 5th year as a failing school. Their 8th grade writing Time Capsule Project had just completed the 2 years with some improvement, but Browne Middle School leadership and teachers loved the idea of all students in all grades writing to each of their parents asking for these priceless letters back, and then writing their letters to themselves.  Browne immediately did this in all grades and the results were astounding!

Browne went from 5th year IR, to Meeting Requirements with 4 Distinctions for the 2016/17 school year!  Their School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) went from just "below average" at 47.5 to 61.7, the highest SEI score for any middle school in all of DISD!  This tied the other largest one year gain by a middle school over the past 20 years in DISD! 

By 2016/17 there were 6 active Time Capsule Projects in DISD middle schools.  All of them were comfortably above average in their SEI scores, and 4 of them were among the 5 highest SEI scores of all 33 middle schools in DISD. This was reported to the public.  In 2017/18 a total of 9 new Time Capsule Project were started, ending the year with 6 elementary, 10 middle, and 4 high schools.  By this time the DISD Curriculum Department was involved and monitoring the progress.

The goals for 2018/19 are to activate the all-grade from 3rd through 12th letter writing projects, 2 letters every year, in the 18 additional schools that will join Quintanilla and Browne in their progress.

In the fall of 2018 a DISD Kindergarten volunteer, Elaine Wildman, suggested that when enrolling their child for school that parents of PK through 2nd grade parents include a statement of their goals for their child.  This would begin the forward thinking process for parents, the putting of goals into words.

   
Letter writing recommendations: These are only recommendations.  The ownership of this project is with each school.  School leadership ultimately decide when and what to do. (It is requested that if schools develop significant improvements that they share their ideas with all schools with Time Capsule Projects, and with us. bbetzen@aol.com)

Timing: all letters except the 10-year letters in 8th and 12th grade should be written during the first half of the school year. (8th and 12th graders could also write letters at the start of the school year and then get those letters back at the end of the year before writing their final 10-year letter. It is an alternative for school leadership to decide.)  The end of October is recommended due to that being when full enrollment is anticipated.  The 10-year letters should be written at the end of the school year so as to sum things up.

Recommendations for first annual letter:
While it is recommended this start in the 3rd grade, teachers have spoken about earlier starts.  That certainly can be done. 


Recommended directions to give to students for writing that first letter to parents:

Here are three sets for directions that can be printed out to share with students with the directions for their letter writing to parents and other relatives they would like to have letters back from.

***************************************
Directions for 3rd through 5th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:


What are your dreams for me?
Time Capsule Project Letter Student Directions
Elementary School  3-8-18

Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, other relatives, or even school staff.     

Ask them to write you a letter telling their dreams for you.

Ask them to write one story from your family’s history. It can be a story they want you to someday tell your own children.  

Your parents and/or relatives will finish their letter. Read it with them. Ask them questions so you can best understand their letter.  

Bring the letters you have received to school. Bring them on the day your teacher says you will write a letter to yourself. In this letter write your dreams for your own future.

Place all these letters into one envelope. Put your name and home address on the envelope. 

Your envelope will return to you in one year.


***************************************
Directions for 6th  through 8th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:

What are your dreams for me?
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
Middle School 3-8-18
Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, guardians or other relatives. You may even write to school staff you may be close to.  Write to adults from whom you would like a letter describing their dreams for you.   

You may write your letter in any language. 

You will write such letters each year.  You change a lot in one year.  You will write letters to the adults observing your changes.  They will describe how their dreams for you have changed as you change.

Ask them to each write one story from your family’s history. It can be a story about themselves or any relative.  It should be a story they consider valuable. It should be a story they want you to pass on to your children someday.   

When your parents and/or relatives finish their letter, read it at home with them. Ask them questions so you understand it.  The goal is for you to understand the letter. 

Bring all the letters you have received to your Language Arts Class. Do this on the day planned to write a letter to yourself. On that day your teacher will give you an envelope. It will hold all the letters you have received. Place your name and address on this envelope. You will then write a letter to yourself about your own plans for the future.

You will also place the letter you write into this self-addressed envelope.  You will place that envelope into the School Time-Capsule.  This will happen each year until you graduate. 

Every year you will receive back this envelope with your letters. The only differences will be in the 8th and 12th grade. Those years you will write letters planning your life 10-years into the future.  Those same years the relatives writing to you will also describe their dreams for you 10-years into the future. These 10-year letters will remain inside the school time capsule for 10 years.


In 10 years your class will have a 10-year reunion. At that reunion you will receive these envelopes back. School staff will invite you to speak with the then current students in your former middle school.  You will give your recommendations for success to them. You will describe life after middle school.


***************************************
Directions for 9th through 12th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:

What are your dreams for me?
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
High School Students 3-8-18
Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, guardians or other relatives. You may also write to school staff you may be close to.  Write to adults from whom you would like a letter describing their dreams for you.   

You may write your letters in any language. 

You will be writing such letters each year.  You change a lot in a year.  You will write letters to the adults observing your changes.  They will describe how their dreams for you have changed as you change.

Ask them to each include one story from your family’s history in their letter. It can be a story about themselves or any relative.  It should be a story they consider valuable. It should be a story they want you to pass on to your children someday.   

When your parents and/or relatives finish their letter, read it with them. Ask them questions so you understand it.  The goal is for you to understand the letter. 

Bring all the letters you have received to your Language Arts Class. Do this on the day planned to write a letter to yourself. On that day your teacher will give you an envelope. It will hold all the letters you have received. Place your name and address on this envelope. You will then write a letter to yourself about your own plans for the future.

You will also place the letter you write into your self-addressed envelope.  You will place that envelope into the School Time-Capsule.  This will happen each year until you graduate. 

Every year you will receive back this envelope with your letters. The only differences will be in the 12th grade. That year you will write a letter planning your life 10-years into the future.  Your senior year the relatives writing to you will also describe their dreams for you 10-years into the future. Your senior year letters will remain inside the school time capsule for 10 years.

In 10 years your class will have your first 10-year class reunion. At that reunion you will receive these envelopes back. School staff will invite you to speak with the then current students in your former high school.  You will give your recommendations for success to them. You will describe life after high school.  You will give the recommendations you wish you had received. You can also talk about the recommendations you did receive and now regret not having followed.


But for now, plan the future you want and describe how you will achieve it.

====================================
The fifth such 10-year reunion will happen this year at Quintanilla, the first Time Capsule Project School, started in 2005. Quintanilla used to be a normal DISD middle school, but for the past several years Superintendent Dr. Hinojosa, has called Quintanilla the best DISD middle school.
Such progress now happens much more rapidly in new Time Capsule Project Schools due to expanded, every grade, letter writing. It will no longer take a decade!

Expect a letter from your child!                          Bill Betzen, 10-29-18
bbetzen@aol.com