One of my favorite community-building routines is Friday Letters. It’s something I started 8 years ago and has yet to get old. Reading and responding to my students through writing helps me build relationships, learn more about my kids outside the classroom, and combine my love for teaching with my love for writing. It’s also a great way for me to reflect on the week. My time spent on Friday afternoons penning letters to students after everyone has rushed out for the weekend brings me joy; each letter helps me remember important moments I shared with students that week. In a world overflowing with emails and texts, receiving and writing hand-written letters adds a personal touch to my exchanges with students. It’s a quieter, much slower way of connecting.
This year, my letters are evolving. With some heavy inspiration from Sam Shah, I’m proud to say that some of my Friday Letters will find themselves in the hands of the parents and guardians of my students. A few weeks ago, when Sam mentioned that he started mailing “shoutout” postcards to his students’ caregivers, I immediately fell in love with the idea and wanted to do it. Expanding the writing that I do to my students to include their parents is a natural progression of my Friday Letters tradition.
Following Sam’s lead, I picked up some discounted postcards. I bought them from Zazzle, the same place I buy my customized notepads. I ordered them with a photo I took of my classroom.
After having issues gaining access to my students’ mailing addresses, it took me a couple of weeks to write my first few postcards. Like Sam, my postcards are celebratory and filled with gratitude.
Of course, I could simply call homes, text, or send an email. Doing any of those things would be far quicker and more efficient. But there’s something distinctly human about receiving a handwritten note, especially from a teacher. Not only is my handwriting unique to me, but it’s also a form of communication that has been lost in today’s fast-paced, screen-driven, digital-everything world. Pausing to gather my thoughts on a student, transfer those thoughts onto a postcard by hand, and then mail it is an investment of time and energy that is wholly distinguishable from picking up the phone or clicking “send” on an email.
Will this personal touch resonate with parents? I don’t know. What I do know is the joy the postcards have added to my Friday afternoons. Now that I’m writing not only my students but also their families, I feel even closer to the young people I teach. Knowing that something I wrote will find its way into the mailboxes (and hopefully the hearts) of parents is in itself meaningful and fulfilling. Sure, dropping postcards in the mail on my ride home will take some getting used to, but it’s well worth it. I just hope I get the addresses correct!