Letters of January

One of my ongoing goals for the year is to write one letter a week (or maybe more like four letters a month). Obviously I spend a lot of time online, and I’m thrilled with the ease at which I can communicate with friends across the world. That’s pretty rad.

I’m the first to admit that I haven’t written very many real letters in the last couple years, but I do think actual letters sent through the mail have some purpose.

For instance, when we got married, I used a gift card to purchase a trust Kitchenaid can opener. In less than a year, the can opener totally broke. Like seriously? I wrote a stern letter to Kitchenaid with the broken can opener enclosed, and a couple months later, I got a new one in the mail. Guess what? That one broke, too. I sent it back, explaining how pathetic it was that the replacement broke, and that I would tell all my friends and family how shoddy Kitchenaid products were. A couple months later, I got TWO new can openers and a $35 check good for any Kitchenaid items.

I’m also a big proponent of using handwritten cards in the workplace. When I was an instructional coach, I made it a point to drop at least one card a week into a teacher’s mailbox where I acknowledged the good work I saw them doing. I could have sent it in an email, or just passed the info along to the principal, but that handwritten card had more weight.

(When I went back to the classroom, I wrote a nice card to our new Assistant Principal to welcome her to our staff. Not long after, we realized she was a total she-devil and I was forced to ironically stare at my own card displayed on her shelf as she lectured me on good listening skills).

Since I was a kid, I’ve been the kind of person who writes letters to the editor, complains (or compliments) a product to a company, or expresses my opinion to a local politician. As my friend Courtney once said, I’m “full of advice.” Sadly, I’ve felt “too busy” to write letters recently.

Today I sat down at my desk and spent 30 minutes writing four letters and then dropped them in the mail. Strangely, I haven’t been annoyed with any products or felt compelled to passive aggressively chime in on any local issues, so I chose to write to four former students.

Three of them were in my class last year and all moved to different schools. The final letter I chose carefully, and ended up with a student from two years ago at my former school. Brian was a kid who was way to smart for his own good, and a total rebel at heart, which was difficult since he came from a relatively strict Vietnamese family. He stayed out of real trouble (rare for that school) and I always knew he would get the joke when others didn’t.

The best memory I have of Brian was a day right after lunch. I always had a list of directions projected on the whiteboard so that kids would get settled while I dealt with attendance, student questions, etc. One day as we walked in, I glanced up at the screen and instead of my directions, there was a long paragraph that said, “This is what happens when you talk shit about me…” and it went on to call out an anonymous group of students who were gossiping a little too much. I turned off the projector immediately and since there were no names attached, I looked around; Brian was the only one paying attention.

The counselor and I pulled him into the hall and were like, “What was that…?” He totally came clean, very calm, and explained he wanted to “make a statement” against those who start drama. I couldn’t stop laughing, and after he apologized we called it good. Once he was out of earshot, the counselor goes, “That kid’s got balls!” 

If there’s one thing I respect (and expect) from my students, it’s to stand up for yourself and what you believe. He didn’t exactly do it the right way, but it was still pretty hilarious.

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