It was a Friday morning, after a week of inside recess. It was Valentine's Day weekend (aka... classroom celebration day) and the following Monday was a holiday. Hello three day break! This was the set up of a long day. I grabbed my coffee and headed out the door prepared for the craziness.
Every morning after announcements the kids come join me at the front of the classroom for a morning meeting and a read aloud. We love sharing books together. On this particular morning I chose a book called Sincerely Emerson. I had found it at our local bookstore. It caught my attention because it was based on a true story of a little girl in a town not far from where I grew up, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sometimes I am really good about previewing books before I read them to my class but other times, I hate to admit, I judge a book by it’s cover and can’t wait to hear the story for the first time with the kids. This book was somewhere in between this, I knew just enough for it to be the perfect fit for Valentines Day.
I will tell you just enough for this to make sense but you MUST read this book. Emerson is a girl living in a small town. She loves to write letters and would send the letters to her relatives and friends all over. Her letters were written with love and care, decorating each one perfectly. One day she realized that this wouldn’t be possible without her local postman, Doug. She decided to write him a thank you letter. Doug was so appreciative that he told his friends. By the end of the story Emerson’s one thank you letter turned into something amazing. She touched so many people from her hand written letters.
As I started to read the book the kids became very quiet and engulfed in the story. Most of the time they are reading along with me, making comments, asking questions, or laughing at the funny parts. You could sense that they were feeling what Emerson was feeling in the story. At the end of the book, I paused, it was quiet... which is very uncommon for this particular group of second graders. Then a small voice said “Mrs. Diede I think I would like to write a letter to someone that might be unnoticed.”
As the class listened, this little girl talked about our community of workers in the oil, gas, and coal industries. She told a story about her dad not getting a new warm coat like others had with tears in her eyes. It was then my class showed what I had been waiting for all year. Three of her friends got close to her and showed their support while others started to agree and started to figure out a way to reach more people.
By the end of the morning my students had written over 20 different letters to workers in our community, thanking them for working through the nights, the bitter cold weather, and leaving their families behind so we could have heat and power to our homes. They took time to decorate each letter and used their best handwriting. They worried about spelling and even wrote some jokes to make the workers laugh. I have delivered the letters to the appropriate places for our community workers to read and feel the love.
This particular morning wasn’t planned. This was completely student driven and teacher supported. On this morning, amongst the craziness of what our day and week had held, my second graders showed true empathy for their community workers and for their classmates. There was no better way to start Valentine’s Day weekend.