Thumbs Up

Knowing what you are good at and knowing how you can improve is an important skill. You tread the line between ego, confidence, hubris and an ongoing commitment to development.

Equally important, is knowing what is more of a challenge, the underlying reasons for this challenge and how you can overcome this. Knowing things are a challenge is not good enough.

Last week, I came face-to-face with one of my own challenges – the ability to teach. As schools are currently closed, like most families, armed with worksheets provided by the school, we have taken teaching into our own hands. After the Easter break, my two eldest children went back to the routine of home-schooling and we are conscious to try and keep things as ‘normal’ as possible for them. In light of this, they have a full daily timetable, lesson plans, an audio of each lesson and Microsoft Teams as a tool for communication.  For a few days before the Easter break, we had a dry run, but it was new, the adrenalin was flowing and the worksheets were limited.

For Daniel, my seven-year-old son, his first lesson was English and the task was to write about ‘what you did at Easter’.  After biting my lip as he reeled off getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast, etc, he then remembered the Easter bunny had visited and he completed an egg hunt with his three sisters.

After some more thought, he then said he wanted to write about the letters he had sent and received to various friends and family. I realised that apart from thank you cards he had never written a letter before this time.

The first letter was to his cousin who he would usually see regularly but hasn’t seen for a month due to the virus. Daniel told him what he had been up to and hoped he was ok and said he was looking forward to playing Goat Simulator on his cousins X-Box soon.  The response from Daniel’s 17-year-old cousin was humbling.  He was touched beyond belief, and my brother said he would always treasure the letter Daniel had sent. His cousin wrote back a long letter in response telling Daniel he was ok and was looking forward to seeing him again soon.

The second letter was to two long standing family friends who are in their 70’s and struggling with isolation. He included a rainbow drawing for them to put up in their window, which they duly displayed with pride.  The neighbours subsequently knocked to say how nice it was and suddenly they did not feel so isolated. A trend in their cul-de-sac then followed with all windows in most houses being filled with bright pictures.

Daniel also sent letters to my techno-phobic parents who only have a landline and letters to communicate.  My Mum said she looks forward to the post person arriving every day, and uses her daily exercise to post letters herself.

The final letter – or technically a poster – was to the post person which Daniel stuck to our front door to say thank you for the job they do.  A relatively silent group of key workers who are doing an amazing job putting a smile on the faces of so many people as the post hits our door mats.

And Shelly – our post person – was so happy she posted a note through our letter box giving Daniel the thumbs up.

Why have letters made such a positive impact?  They are personal and handwritten, which always say so much more than just the words written on the page.  It also shows effort and a want to communicate. And not just a push of a button like an email or text message, but the need to address the envelope, buy a stamp and physically place in a post box demonstrates much more thought and effort.

And I have learned just how expensive a stamp is!  Double the cost since I last knowingly sent a non-work letter but it has been worth it and we will ensure letter writing is maintained long after my teaching career is over.

Mike Adams
CEO, Purple
27 April 2020

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