As I prepare to return to teaching after time off for surgery, I am reminded of the contrast of today’s digital society and days past before we had all the gadgets. We actually had time for conversations with others, uninterrupted conversations face to face. With call interrupt, many conversations are put on hold to speak with someone else. As I navigate the world of social media, everything is hustle and bustle. People are so rushed, they no longer have time to enjoy one another’s company. The sports program on NPR this morning reported tracking data in various sports to see how time can be trimmed off sporting events so people don’t have to spend so much time watching/participating. Really? Where are we rushing off to now?
But I digress. One of the students mentioned our pen pal letters written in cursive. That’s correct, in cursive. He mentioned the value he placed on writing letters to send to students in Germany and how nice it was not to have digital interruptions such as auto-correct when writing. So I had to smile to myself as I realized that even today’s tech savvy student realized the importance of taking time to formulate thoughts and to write them out long hand. He further noted that perhaps speed is being sacrificed when letters are handwritten, but the value of handwriting the letter creates a special art of communication which should be expanded in today’s digital messaging world. My students know the disdain I have for texting: spelling and grammar are discarded like worn shoes. So it warms my heart to hear that some of today’s young people realize the value of the art of writing.
I am struck by and ponder comments my students made about our video conferences with Germany. One student noted that it was rare for a young person today to have such a great program in which students are able to meet students in Germany via video conferences to better understand the people and culture. They are cognizant of the fact that no other class in school does quite what our German classes do with two hour video conferences. It is not something they can learn from a textbook, and it’s a once in a lifetime experience for them. And who knows whether or not I am preparing future ambassadors or world leaders who are honing their skills in my classes?
Thus I recall my own days beginning in first grade in Massachusetts when I learned to write cursive letters with the big yellow pencil and later used pen. This laid the foundation and formed values I try to instill in my students today. No matter how busy they are or how much time they spend texting one another, they know they will slow down and take time to formulate thoughts to put on paper in pen in my classes. One might add, the old-fashioned way. How many of us take time to write a message by hand to someone in a greeting card or in a letter? Perhaps it is time to renew our friendships with these basic social skills. Why not take time today to write a letter by hand to someone and bring a smile to their face as they too remember those days?