As a high school English teacher, I am finding that teaching good writing skills is becoming harder and harder to do. Whenever I force my students to write a letter in class I am faced with a barrage of “whys?” and “when will I ever need this in real life?”. Most of my students don’t even see the point of learning how to write a letter. They feel that it’s much more efficient to just e-mail that person, or send them a text. Am I a luddite? Is the art of letter writing really dead?
To me, there is nothing more pleasant than opening up your mailbox and finding a beautiful handwritten letter. It makes receiving all of those bills that much more bearable. Unfortunately, you never find those types of letters anymore. The most one ever gets is a scurried e-mail or text where because is spelled “cuz” and everyone is “lol”ing. I have even seen college admissions essays where texting lingo such as “cuz” and “l8r” are used. Most students are stupified when told that this needs to be corrected before the essay goes out. Am I acting like a dinosaur?
An exercise that I tried in my class the other day was having my students write letters to Santa Claus. There’s no internet service on the North Pole. Santa doesn’t have an Iphone. Many of the students were surprised at just how much they enjoyed this exercise. Yes, writing to Santa did make them feel like little kids again. Yes, writing to Santa did bring the joy of the holiday season into the classroom. And yes, writing to Santa is a much simpler assignment than reading and analyzing Hamlet. Beyond that though, many of the students were surprised that the simple act of writing could be enjoyable. May more people discover it this holiday season.