For decades, American high school teacher Bruce Farrer has been asking his students to write letters to their future selves. 20 years later, he tracks down the students and posts their letters to them.
Speaking in a video for US airline West Jet, Farrer says that the letters have become more valuable because we now communicate far less by letters than we did 20 years ago. He created the assignment because he wanted his students to do an exercise "that was different, that would be interesting and one that they would value".
High school teacher Bruce Farrer has been asking his pupils to write letters to their future selves for decades
An old pupil of Farrer says when he was asked to write a 10 page letter to his future self, he thought it was "a lesson just to pass the time, to keep us busy for a few hours while he did other things". He now understands what a dedicated teacher Farrer was.
Of course, tracking down your students 20 years after teaching them is a challenging task. Farrer describes it as "a lot of detective work" but he is excited to find out the different paths his ex-pupils have taken.
The video shows the reactions of some of Farrer's old students upon opening their letters. One describes it as an "emotional roller-coaster" as she reads about the passing of her grandmother and aunt, experienced through the eyes of her younger self.
"I wasn't quite expecting that emotional roller-coaster"
Another reads about how his younger self longed to go to England to see the Thames, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. He smiles, knowing that his younger self did go to England, only a few years after writing the letter.
Little did Darren know that a couple of years after reading this letter, he did get to go to England
A third recipient says that reading the letter will help her as a parent, as it will make it easier to see the world through the eyes of her younger daughter. She describes the letter as "a keepsake".
"As a parent, if I think back to what was in my letter, that will help me appreciate where she is"
Despite the profound effect that receiving the letters has on its recipients, Farrer remains modest about his diligence and commitment. "I know I'm not an outstanding teacher. I'm just a regular teacher who happened to assign a rather different assignment", he says.