Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One Little Spark

"I got your letter!!!"
"I liked your letter!"
"Oh, I got a postcard from you!"
"That place was pretty! Where is it?"
"Recibí tu carta y quería responder, pero no pude encontrar su dirección..."
"Thank you for the letter!"
"My parents were wondering which one you were, and I explained to them..."

Last Wednesday, on the first day of school, my students came bouncing into my classroom with huge smiles and sparkling eyes.  One even pulled his postcard out of his binder, waving it as he found a seat.  Class after class, amidst a sea of hugs, excited chatter, and smiles both familiar and new, postcards (which my students mostly called "letters") came up again and again.

You see, a few weeks earlier on my trip to Hocking Hills, I perplexed the gift shop cashier by buying a huge stack of postcards to send to my students.  When I used to teach elementary school, I knew teachers who sent their new classes postcards or letters over the summer, and I just loved the idea.
Just before mailing!
Last fall, one of my freshmen wrote a few sentences in her first quarter reflection letter that stuck with me all year.  Because of her, I'll always remember how scary first days can be, especially for freshmen, new students, and ELLs.  Moreover, I'll always remember what a difference one teacher can make.
I don't even remember what we did in class, and I bet she doesn't either.
But months later, she remembered how she felt in my classroom.
When I was planning for the beginning of the year, her words kept running through my mind.  If I could make her day better without really trying, what if I tried harder?  What could I do to make that first day more of a DELIGHT for all my students?  How could I take away that nervousness and apprehension for more kids?  What were my students feeling like as they looked ahead towards the school year, and how could I make it a more positive feeling?

As I thought, worried, and wondered about my students' summer experiences, the memory of those elementary teachers who sent notes over the summer came drifting back, and I knew I had to try it.  At the very least, I hoped my students would have something positive in their minds when they thought about me and my class.  I hoped the new students would feel a little less scared, and that my students from last year would feel special that I thought of them over the summer.

Last Wednesday, I was rewarded with so many more smiles, squeals, and hugs than I had dared to dream of.  A few dollars and a few hours of my summer for pure DELIGHT on the first day?  Definitely worth it.

It's going to be a great year!


  1. That is a great idea! I have done it for my students and it started due to the border I created out of all the postcards I have from the places I visited! They then began to send me postcards from there travels. This is something I can do in my role as reading coach for incoming freshman next summer. Sending them book titles and perhaps some postcards from landscapes from books...made by students this year.

  2. Just wonderful to take the time (and money) to do this for your students, Jennifer. That slow mail is really special, isn't it? As I said in my post, we all write letters to our students, and I used to send postcards when I went to a great place on vacation in the summer. It is something they won't forget for a long time, and I guess has made a great beginning to your year! Maybe it will help in writing too. They could design and write their own postcards to someone special.

  3. How could it not be a great great year when your students have you as their teacher? I am old enough to remember sending postcards from every trip we took as a child and young adult. I loved getting cards from my friends and relatives! You have resurrected a wonderful idea that brought your students close to you even before the beginning of school!

  4. I love it, Jennifer! Though I found myself wondering how I would manage 150 notes, but if John Green can sign 150,000 books then surely I figure out time and a schedule for 150 postcards. I can hear your student's delight and love Linda's reminder about slow mail. The line " you relieve me" just tugs at my heart too. Thank you for inspiring me this morning!

    Happy start to a new year!
    Lee Ann


Comments make me happy and I'd love to hear from YOU! :-)