At this unsettling time, there is nothing quite like receiving a friend's words, thoughts, and love through the letterbox. Barbara Wallace explains how a simple, low cost initiative by Mossgrove Primary School PTA in Newtownabbey is spreading joy throughout their school community.
Can you remember the last time you wrote a letter or a postcard, or received one? For me it was probably my teenage years, before phones and computers, when endless evenings were spent writing notes to friends to be passed on the next day. Not long ago my mum gave me a pile of scrapbooks of postcards collected by my great-great Aunt from 1920’s through to 1980’s; carefully selected pictures, personal feelings, thoughts, happy and sad stories captured in the moment, and in beautiful handwriting. Reading and looking at these I could almost see where the person was, hear the person speak and visualise their face – how have we forgotten the power of writing to our friends?
We are constantly connected via phones, email and apps. The social lockdown situation we now find ourselves in has not only highlighted how great technology can be in these times, but also how much more we value the deeply personal relationships and connections we have with each other and how important these are to us.
Like many of you, it was only a few weeks ago that we as a PTA, were sitting round the table planning Easter Egg hunts and activities for the summer term, wondering if it would rain again this year for sports day and if it will be cancelled again. We are a small PTA and really enjoy this time of year, being able to support our school to provide fun things for the pupils; trips, egg hunts, leavers hoodies, providing tea (and tissues) for parents watching their children leave primary school for the last time, and bringing our school community together for a summer fair/ end of term event.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, and with emotional goodbyes and anxious thoughts of everything our children would be missing out on, our school closed in March and our children’s worlds turned upside down. We had no time to plan or prepare them (or ourselves) for what this all meant in terms of timescales, friendships and transitions; neither did our school.
Little cards of Friendship
Our PTA really wanted to do something to support the children and families, but with lots of practical help available from school and in the community, and little money to spare, we were unsure what would be most useful. With many of us having older children who are digitally connected, as well as younger children who aren’t, it got us thinking about ways we could keep them all connected to their friends. As parents we were concerned about the social and emotional impact that this would have on our children, as well as how some will struggle with learning at home. Thinking about how exciting it is receiving something in the post, we discussed the idea of providing a pack of postcards to every child in the school. Children of all abilities and ages could write or draw something to tell their friends how they are, and that they are thinking about them. We thought that, not only would this have great social and emotional benefits in these unsettling times, but it would also help with literacy skills and encourage children to think, write and be creative.
It was a very simple and low cost initiative. One of our PTA parents wrote the poem which helped explain the purpose of the postcards. We agreed the design and made up packs for each pupil from Nursery – P7. We have worked alongside school staff to distribute these to the pupils in lockdown at home, and the idea has been received warmly by staff and parents.
We hope that as these little cards of friendship circulate round the houses of the children in our school, they not only bring some joy through the letterbox, but that our children can hear the voices of their friends through the words and pictures penned so personally from afar. Like my postcard scrapbooks and teenage letters, one day our children will read these cards again and remember with a smile, how friendship, love and laughter was sent through words during tough times when they couldn’t play and learn together.