Making Connections Through Letters
By Calley Roering
This year is different compared to last year in a few ways. There have been more fun and exciting opportunities happening at school: having more children in my class, co-teaching with another teacher, and being able to go upstairs to visit the seniors.
Last year, the children and teachers were not allowed upstairs due to COVID. Luckily, this year we have the opportunity to visit the seniors’ common spaces and visit with them outside of their apartment doors.
One day, a child was working on a drawing. When we asked who the drawing was for, the child responded, “This is for the grandmas and grandpas. Can you write on the back that I love them?” My co-teacher and I knew that we needed to get this picture and words to the seniors. We thought that since we are finally allowed to go upstairs and visit with the seniors, we should take advantage of it.
We found a simple mailbox in the storage room and brought it into our classroom to be decorated. After the teachers explained the idea of writing letters and delivering pictures to the seniors, the children were excited to bring the mailbox upstairs. A group of children and I went upstairs and set the mailbox, paper, and pens on a table in the mailroom with a note asking, “Will you please write to us? We are the preschoolers who go to school downstairs. We have a bird feeder and love watching the birds land and eat the bird seeds. Do you like birds?” As we placed the mailbox, materials, and letter on the table, we crossed our fingers and hoped that we would hear back from the seniors.
A few days later, we rode the elevator upstairs to check the mailbox and it was exploding with mail! The children grabbed the mail from the mailbox and proudly walked down the hall, eagerly waiting to hear what the seniors had written to them. When we entered the classroom, the children shouted to their peers with excitement, “LOOK AT ALL OF THESE LETTERS!” We sat down as a group and read them together. The seniors shared things like their love of birds, how they missed their childhoods, and how hearing the children laughing outside brought back good memories and joy.
The children wasted no time writing back to the seniors. While they spoke, I wrote down their words. Then they added their own touches, little drawings or some stickers. Once we had a stack of letters and pictures, we decided it was time to go upstairs and deliver them to the seniors. We took the elevator to the third floor to drop off a letter to Grandma Pat. The children looked for her apartment number, knocked on her door and eagerly waited for her to answer. We usually are in luck; the seniors typically are home when we are delivering mail and pictures. When the grandmas or grandpas answer the door, they are greeted with happy children, a letter, and picture.
It seems to happen naturally now: during playtime, a handful of children draw pictures and write letters for the seniors upstairs. We have hung up in our classroom all of the letters that the seniors have written to us. This helps the children remember that they are part of a bigger community. The teachers and children alike have found so much joy receiving mail from the seniors. It’s always a highlight of our week when we can write back and deliver mail and pictures to them. It’s been a long-awaited interaction and is proving to be powerful and wonderful for all of us.