NEWS
03/31/2014 03:17 EDT | Updated 05/31/2014 05:59 EDT

20 years later, Sask. teacher mails student-penned letters

A retired Saskatchewan teacher is fulfilling a promise he made to his students 20 years ago — sending letters written by teenagers to their current selves.

In 1994, as part of an English assignment, Fort Qu'Appelle's Bruce Farrer had his Grade 9 students at Bert Fox Community High School write letters to their future selves.

Promise kept

He hung on to the letters for two decades, tracked down where they lived, and then, as he said he would, he mailed the letters out.

And it wasn't just for that one year. In fact, he had dreamed up the idea when he was just starting his teaching career in 1961.

"I was trying to think of some assignment that would be special," Farrer told Morning Edition host Sheila Coles. "It just sort of came up."

By the time he retired in 2002, five large boxes had been filled with letters.
 
Farrer said it's been a lot of work tracking down the writers, but he made a promise.

Former student became teacher himself

Among those who took a trip down memory lane when they opened their mailboxes last week was Scott Fulton, who is now a teacher himself and taught for a while at his old high school. He said he remembered the assignment, but not what he wrote.

"It kind of faded from my memory," Fulton said. "To receive it again was pretty special."

He read part of the two-decades-old letter on the Morning Edition.

'Are you married?'

"So, anyway, are you married?"  his 14-year-old self asked. "To who? I've always wondered if I would get married to somebody I already know now or somebody I'll meet later on in my life ... Did you got to university? Which one?"

Fulton said there's no wife and kids yet and he decided to pursue a career in education, rather than sports medicine, as his teenage self planned.

The assignment

Farrer said he had the kids write a one-page letter about what they thought they'd be as adults. 

He considered making the students keep the letters, but knew they'd likely lose them so he decided to keep them and mail them to the kids at the date they chose — typically 10, 20 or 25 years later.

The students had to provide their home addresses, plus those of several relatives considered likely to remain at the same place for a while.

Farrer says some of the students might have been a little embarrassed after all those years to read the letters, but he has also had a phone call or two from those who were delighted.

Farrer said it has been a lot of work, but he's happy to do it in the knowledge his former students will be pleased to remember who they were as teenagers.

'Amazed and inspired'

It's the most memorable thing he did as a teacher, Farrer said.

Fulton said he hopes he can live up to the older man's example.

"I was just feeling honoured and grateful," Fulton said about getting his letter. "Amazed and inspired at the work of Mr. Farrer."

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