Building Relationships Through Letter Writing.

Corresponding with students via snail mail is a good way for teachers to foster trust anytime—but especially when everyone is physically distanced.

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With remote teaching likely continuing into the next academic year, we’ll need low-tech ways to establish relationships with students whom we can’t reach digitally. An ongoing letter communication through the mail is just that—and is also an empowering way to build relational trust with students. That trust, explains Zaretta Hammond, is the foundation on which culturally responsive teaching can change learning trajectories for even our most vulnerable students.

My first year in the classroom, I saw one of my more disengaged students pass a note to a friend. I thought about confiscating it, as my teachers had done. Instead, I wrote her my own note the next day. She wrote back, and we continued writing through the year, her engagement in class strengthening alongside our relationship. Letter writing became my most essential tool for earning my students’ trust.

When we as teachers write letters to students and they write back to us, we balance power dynamics, learn from each other, practice holding space for complex feelings, and engage our natural curiosities as readers and writers. Here are several suggestions for writing meaningful letters to students.

INTRODUCING THE LETTERS

To promote authentic communication that equalizes the power dynamic, remove obligations and expectations that students participate. Keep the letters optional and clarify that writing conventions and content will not be evaluated.

Inform families, perhaps in a separate letter, that you are initiating a dialogue with students through optional letter writing. Remind parents and students that you will respect their privacy—but that you are still a mandated reporter.

Keep the lines of communication open and flexible by avoiding constraints like deadlines and page limits. Make it known that students are welcome to start new topics and don’t need to continue a topic initiated by the teacher.

Write the first letter to your students (you might start with a few students per week) to serve as a helpful example for students who may struggle with this possibly unfamiliar form. Set students at ease by using a casual tone, sharing personal anecdotes, and even including jokes or funny sketches. Model letter writing conventions like dating and signing the letter.

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WRITING YOUR LETTERS

I used to pepper my letters with questions and suggested topics to prompt students to respond. But this approach maintains the traditional power structures of classroom communication, where the teacher is facilitating conversation. Over time, I learned to create a safe space that promotes genuine dialogue.

Participate in the conversation instead of directing it: If I know a student plays the violin, I won’t directly ask him about it. Instead, I write about my related experiences. For example, with this extra time on my hands, I have thought about finally learning how to play my guitar. I’m thinking of trying YouTube videos, but I’m worried that I won’t have the discipline to practice without a teacher. By sharing these thoughts, I open up lines of communication. My student is free to pick up this thread and respond in a variety of ways, instead of only answering my specific questions about the violin. Maybe he won’t mention his violin at all and instead choose to talk about YouTube, describe what he’s doing with his extra time, or assuage my worries about learning a string instrument.

Ask questions that stem from curiosity about topics that students initiate: Questions that are prompted by what students are choosing to share with us invite us to demonstrate genuine curiosity, offer our unique perspective, and introduce new words and ideas that probe students’ thinking. When we gain insight into our students’ unique funds of knowledge, we see their academic assets. We can use these insights to plan instruction that leverages what students already know.

Make your thinking visible: When young people get a glimpse into the thinking life of someone else, especially someone who thinks in an interesting or productive way, it’s the best kind of education. When a student recommends an app I should download, I’m honest about how I’m trying to cut back on my phone use since I’m getting addicted to the games I already play. I add that I’m trying to dock my phone after 6 p.m. and will let her know how it goes. By observing others’ thinking, our students may learn new coping skills and language to navigate their own experiences.

Encourage all forms of expression, regardless of perceived errors or informality: Zaretta Hammond has said that our students’ errors are information. As students informally write to you to connect and share their lives, avoid directives about how they should write. Simply note their errors and write your response with correct models. Use this information as you plan your instruction, but don’t instruct in your letter.

Hold space for students’ feelings: To maintain an equitable co-writing relationship, refrain from comments that evoke the authority you still have as the teacher. Instead of suggesting solutions to problems that students share, respond with acknowledgment and empathy. Instead of reassuring students with praise, show how you connect with their experience or what you’re learning from them.

When our students have uneven access to distance-learning technology, writing letters allows us to advance equity within our sphere of influence. We can give them a safe space in which to reflect, complain, disagree, express fear, ask hard questions, and hear our stories. We can practice being there for students as a trusted adult, a relationship that can nurture rigorous learning.

MY ALL – Mariah Carey

Honestly one of the most brilliant and expressive songs I’ve ever heard. Her voice is absolutely mesmerizing, sultry, husky, sensual but also powerful, you can feel that she’s truly yearning for her lost love.

You really have to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, ‘I’m proud of what I am and who I am, and I’m just going to be myself.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

 

LYRICS: Mariah Carey MY ALL

I am thinking of you
In my sleepless solitude tonight
If it’s wrong to love you
Then my heart just won’t let me be right
‘Cause I’ve drowned in you
And I won’t pull through
Without you by my side

I’d give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I’d risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
‘Cause I can’t go on
Living in the memory of our song
I’d give my all for your love tonight

Baby can you feel me
Imagining I’m looking in your eyes
I can see you clearly
Vividly emblazoned in my mind
And yet you’re so far
Like a distant star
I’m wishing on tonight
I’d give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I’d risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
‘Cause I can’t go on

Living in the memory of our song
I’d give my all for your love tonight
I’d give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I’d risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
‘Cause I can’t go on
Living in the memory of our song
I’d give my all for your love tonight
(I’d) give my all for your love
Tonight

 

Stuck On You – Lionel Richie

 

“Fate controls who walks into your life, but you decide who you let walk out, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go.”

“Don’t let someone else control what you do in life. It’s your decisions, your outcomes, your life.”

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Title: Stuck On You – Lionel Richie

 

 

Lyrics: Stuck On You – Lionel Richie

Stuck on you
I’ve got this feeling down
Deep in my soul
That I just can’t lose
Guess, I’m on my way
Needed a friend
And the way I feel now I guess
I’ll be with you till the end
Guess I’m on my way
Mighty glad you stayed

I’m stuck on you
Been a fool too long I guess
It’s time for me to come on home
Guess I’m on my way
So hard to see
That a woman like you could wait
Around for a man like me
Guess I’m on my way
Mighty glad you stayed

Oh, I’m leaving on that midnight train tomorrow
And I know just where I’m going
I’ve packed up my troubles
And I’ve thrown them all away
Because this time little darling
I’m coming home to stay

I’m stuck on you
I’ve got this feeling down
Deep in my soul
That I just can’t lose
Guess, I’m on my way
Needed a friend
And the way I feel now I guess
I’ll be with you till the end
Guess I’m on my way
I’m mighty glad you stayed

 

Autumn Serenade

Autumn Serenade – song by a beautiful Armenian voice and her name is SONA RUBENYAN. “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”

Sona Rubenyan / Autumn Serenade – SONA RUBENYAN / Ashnan serenad

Elita Harutyunyan, Author of the speeches

Author of music, Vazgen Koloyan

Lyrics in English:

The day dusk slowly, when you were away from me,

Life became futile, lost the dung, became one-on-one.

She was dumb, relaxed, faded, and brought her autumn.

 

And that autumn bloomed me in colors, bewildered me,

My heart took him.

And that autumn serenade played me,

And the mild bridge took my wind …

 

In the rain, I will tell the story to my ears,

And I will ask him to leave you lost my dream,

The slow, thin whispers came autumn.

 

And that autumn bloomed me in colors, bewildered me,

My heart took him.

And that autumn serenade played me,

And the mild bridge took my wind …

 

Return to my sun in the autumn,

Bring me colors, bring a dream.

 

The autumn yellow colors barked me, bewitched me,

My heart took him.

And that autumn did not care for you anymore,

My love took away …

My love took away …

=========================

The Lyrics in Armenian Language:

Խոսքերի հեղինակ՝ Էլիտա Հարությունյան

Երաժշտության հեղինակ՝ Վազգեն Քոլոյան

 

Օրը մթնեց դանդաղ, երբ ինձնից դու հեռացար անհետ,

Կյանքն անիմաստ դարձավ, կորցրեց խինդը, միագույն դարձավ:

Խամրեց, հանգչեց, մարեց, իր հետ աշուն բերեց:

 

Ու այդ աշունը գույներով ինձ կախարդեց, կախարդեց ինձ,

Սիրտս իրեն վերցրեց:

Ու այդ աշունը սերենադ ինձ նվագեց,

Ու քամին մեղմ սերս տարավ…

 

Հորդ անձրևին կամաց կպատմեմ ես պատմությունը իմ,

Ու կխնդրեմ նրան քեզ թողնել կորած երազը իմ,

Դանդաղ, մեղմ շշուկով եկավ աշունը թով:

 

Ու այդ աշունը գույներով ինձ կախարդեց, կախարդեց ինձ,

Սիրտս իրեն վերցրեց:

Ու այդ աշունը սերենադ ինձ նվագեց,

Ու քամին մեղմ սերս տարավ…

 

Վերադարձի՛ր իմ արև դու աշնան,

Բե՛ր ինձ գույներ, բե՛ր երազանք:

 

Աշունը դեղին գույներով ինձ կախարդեց, կախարդեց ինձ,

Սիրտս իրեն վերցրեց:

Ու այդ աշունը չնայեց այլևս քեզ,

Սերս տարավ անհետ…

Սերս տարավ անհետ…

 

Where Are You Now

Where Are You Now – Imany 

Days had gone into nights and nights had gone into days – And everyday gone count one thousand days in my life.  “I’ve learned that waiting is the most difficult bit, and I want to get used to the feeling, knowing that you’re with me, even when you’re not by my side.”

 

 Lyrics:

I see a picture in a frame
I see a face without a name
Riding alone on an empty train
Where are you

I live in a house of broken hearts
Leaves are falling in the park
Every day is a question mark
Where are you

I would drive through the rain (to find you)
Walk a desert plain (behind you)
You could unlock these chains (untie to)
Where are you now

Through the storm I call your name (to guide you)
Love could be the flame (beside you)
If you unlock these chains (untie to)
Where are you now

Lying in my room at night
Silhouettes are dressed in white
Waiting for the morning light
Where are you

Each day you live and learn
As the wheels of heaven turn
For you my candle burns
Where are you

I would drive through the rain (to find you)
Walk a desert plain (behind you)
You could unlock these chains (untie to)
Where are you now

Through the storm I call your name (to guide you)
Love could be the flame (beside you)
If you unlock these chains (untie to)
Where are you now

so far
Out there, I can almost touch you
You’re here in my mind all the time
Where are you now

to find you
Walk a desert plain (behind you)
You could unlock these chains (untie to)
Where are you now

Through the storm (through the storm) I call your name (to guideyou)
Love could be the flame (beside you)
If you unlock these chains (untie to)
Where are you, where are you now

Walk a desert plain (behind you)
If you’d unlock these chains (untie to)
Where are you now

Songwriters: Scott English / Phil Manikiza / Simon Stirling
Where Are You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC