A few days before Thanksgiving break, I stopped by my school mailbox before heading out for the day. I was surprised to find an envelope addressed to Ms. Carey. A quick glance at the return address told me that it was from the family of one of my newest first graders in my distance learning class. I stopped right there and opened the envelope, curious to see what it contained.
Inside was a plain piece of white paper, filled with first grade handwriting.
Dear Ms. Carey,
I look forward to coming to class.
My face broke out in a grin. This was totally unexpected and it totally made my day. I’ve never met any of my students in real life, yet, we spend hours together each day via Zoom. I’ve seen their writing through their screens as they hold it up to the camera and I coach them to get it on the screen. “Hold it with two hands. Raise it up a little. Move it this way. Ok, now down. Wait…keep holding it. I didn’t read the whole thing!” I regularly have the students read me their writing or have their parents send photos…but this was the first piece of actual writing I held in my hands. It was a real treat.
The next day, at the start of our Zoom session, I held the letter up and watched Jake’s face light up. I also popped a response letter in the mail and sure enough after the Thanksgiving break, I had another letter from Jake.
As all of this was going on, I had to send another student her public library card, after it was delivered to our school after a virtual field trip. Of course, I included a note to accompany the card. A few days later, this students’ mom emailed to say that the letter had made her daughter’s day. “Can she write back? She’s over the moon.”
On Friday, I came home to another letter with a familiar return address.
I never expected that my first graders would become my penpals, but what a gift. I really think that we should bring back the art of letter writing, sending random greeting cards, and notes. Checking my mailbox in the month of December is always full of joy, as holiday cards slowly roll in. Now, I approach my school mailbox with the same feeling of anticipation. What if we kept that going all year long? I think letter writing could be a silver lining of these crazy covid times.