Making Connections Through Letters

Posted November 23, 2021

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.

A Happy Halloween Indeed

Posted November 9, 2021

A Happy Halloween Indeed

By Sarah Kern

It has been over a year and a half since our lives were turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been over a year and a half since we had a “normal” school year. It has been over a year and a half since the children have been a regular part of our seniors’ lives — a year and a half without the joy and connection of our time with the residents.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a glimpse of the past, of what it used to be like, every day, with our seniors. The children of All Seasons celebrated Halloween by putting on a parade. Unlike last year, when the children only got to wave to seniors through their windows, we were able to go upstairs for the parades. One of the parades even included a trip into Memory Care.

As the children excitedly dressed for the Halloween parade, the teachers prepared them for what would happen. Leaving the school and riding in the elevator was a new experience for almost all of the children. Walking through the halls, staying together, following a teacher — these were rules the children needed to know. But none of us could have been prepared for what happened when we entered the Memory Care units.

There were the seniors, waiting in their chairs and on couches for the children. The looks in the seniors’ eyes and the joy on their faces was indescribable. Amidst the “oohs” and “aahs,” seniors reached out their hands and held open their arms for the children. And without prompting, the children fell into their arms. They gave handshakes and high fives. They shared the physical touch so many of us have been missing over the last 20 months. The seniors perhaps have missed it the most; so much of the touch they’ve received has been perfunctory as they received care from aides.

The teachers’ eyes filled with tears as we remembered the way it used to be and all that we have missed. It was a glimpse of the past, yes, and also a glimpse of the future, of the coming times when we will all be together again.