Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pen-pal Fun!

My kids are totally coming out of their shells! And I love it :) Mom offered her school up as a sort of buddy-system for the kids, so my second graders got all kinds of excited when I told them they got to write letters to second graders in the States. I told them all about how my mom is a teacher (and Lissie stated, "Ah, now I know why you wanted to be a teacher!" which melted my heart) and has friends who teach second grade and would love to be friends with my second graders! Some of them seemed annoyed at the idea of trying to write sentences, but the majority couldn't wait to get started. A few weeks ago a Barnabas team was here, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to start the pen-pal fun. Having such a family in the Barnabas team is such a blessing--they took my cards back to the States, Dad picked them up and Mom took them to school. It's a regular pony express!

So again, this was a few weeks ago, but we started the writing process in class, and for homework they were supposed to write a draft of their letter. A few of them were so excited they wrote cards for Mom too, which I thought was too cute for words. A few brought long translations of formal-sounding friendly letters, and the typed into the internet translations cracked me up. But hey, I have to give it to them for trying, right? Daniela made three envelopes out of neatly folding construction paper, glittery gel pens and Winnie the Pooh stickers; one for the student, one for the teacher and one for the mom of the miss. She also had some fancy online translated notes, and shared them with Samantha. I wonder what the students who receive their letters will think! Some of the kids were really stumped by what to say, but I tried my best to get their creativity flowing. There were the unfortunate few who wrote no more than hello and their name, which didn't leave me smiling. Cesar surprised me with a glittery card he'd made at home and a cute draft that talked about lasagna being his favorite food. He rarely has his English homework, and got a hug and high-five when he showed them off to me. Andrea, who devastatingly had not ever completed her English homework, came prepared with a great draft eager to get started. She's one who really touched me because she really struggles with English. Dear Amilcar, who's a total cutie and good with his English, typed up a few different notes but they were all in Spanish. He was so proud of them I couldn't get upset, and we sent a translation along with his cards. He had a card for a young lady (para alguien especial it said!), one for an amigo and one for the teacher. The makings of the next Breakfast Club, my boys of 2B who I'm certain I was given to learn to lessons in patience calm yet affective discipline, came prepared with nothing and shared Amilcar's notes. Obviously their grades for reflected their lack of preparation, but it was pretty neat to watch so many of the kids huddled around desks sharing markers and asking how their cards were coming together. For one reason or another 2B has been more of a problem class throughout the first quarter, but they really bloomed with this assignment. I'm not sure who's more excited about the idea of them creating penpals, them or me!

I had a good time getting them ready to send. Aunt Jane sent me down here with a fat bag of her fabric bags (thanks again Aunt Jane!) and I brought two in to store the cards from each class-- animals for 2A and care bears for 2B because I'm that good--and a lot of the teachers were very impressed with Aunt Jane's handiwork. They all wanted to know where'd I'd purchased my beautiful bags! When I got home that night I went through the cards to mark them in my gradebook, and add notes to any that needed translation or explanation. Some of them filled me with so much pride I added little notes about that too :) I sent a thank you note to the teachers and of course one for Mom, and now we wait! Every couple of days one of the kids will ask me about the cards, and I fear it will be a long waiting process for them. Mom received the cards, and it was exciting to give them that update, now we just have to wait for the kids on her end to get card-making happy--but they have things like SOLs so I understand that could take some time.

When I was in third grade I remember having a Ukranian pen pal, and as I think about it I'm wondering why we stopped writing and wishing we'd kept in touch. I know I always loved getting notes from her, so I'm stoked to get to share that with my kids. It makes me dream things like them keeping in touch as they grow in school and eventually visiting each other one day. How neat would that be? I've been having a little of my own pen pal fun with some girls back home (thanks again for writing, your cards always bring joy and excitement :) and I'm looking forward to "visiting" them sometime around July 2012!