The past two weeks I have been teaching lessons on how to address an envelope and the proper formatting of a business letter. A task I thought might be covered in two lessons has taken two weeks. Why? Because my students have never addressed envelopes nor have they ever written a letter. Shocked? I was.
Just like my post the other day of cursive writing becoming a lost art due to technology (texting, computers etc.) letter writing is, in my opinion, going the way of the dinosaurs as well.
In my first lesson, I posed the question, “When was the last time you wrote a letter?” My students seemed confused. “Like to your grandma?…” I added.
“I texted her last night,” said one student.
“I Skyped her two weeks ago,” said another.
“No, that’s not what I mean.” I chose my words carefully. “When did you pick up a pen and a piece of paper and write a letter to someone?”
“You mean use “Snail Mail”?” A light bulb seemed to blink on but then blink immediately off.
It was obvious not one student had written a letter over the past six months and as I probed further, most had NEVER written a formal letter, let alone an informal one to their grandmas. As one student was quick to point out, what was the point of writing letters that would take a week or more to get somewhere when technology would allow them to immediately connect through social media or Facetime, Skype, text or email? I couldn’t argue with their logic.
Here in Canada, our postal service is losing billions of dollars because Canadians are not using the service anymore. The cost of a stamp has increased dramatically over the years, so even those who used to send the obligatory yearly Christmas Card to friends, now uses free e-cards, or sends a generic letter to all their email contacts or just posts a funny graphic on their Facebook page and then posts a new status to read: “Merry Christmas, All!”
I will admit, I don’t even know what a stamp costs. I only sent a limited number of Christmas Cards through Canada Post this year and since I pay all bills online (and correspond almost exclusively online), I too, have abandoned the Canadian postal service. Sorry guys!
It had me wondering why the Alberta Educational Curriculum insists that grade nine students be expected to write a formal business letter AND address an envelope correctly for their provincial exam? Is it a big waste of time to teach it and will the students ever use the information afterwards?
Of course I can answer my own questions…
It is IMPERATIVE students know how to write letters AND address envelopes, and here’s why I think that.
Technology has not connected us as much as actually separated us. There is no such thing as the “personal touch” anymore. We hide behind our computer, phone and tablet screens and use texting language that has destroyed our ability to spell and use grammar correctly. We are limited to 140 characters to express ourselves with this technology. We never write cursively anymore, mostly everything is in printed font. My students do not even know how to sign cursively their own names. It’s sad.
When I pointed out to my students that one day they will have to apply for jobs, and a good cover letter is essential, as is a well written resume, that did seem to leave an impression. Taking time to send a card or a personalized note hand-written to someone, shows to that person (at least of my generation), that they are worthy of the effort and it is a personal connection, not just a two-second text. It is a special treat AND I save all cards and letters that have been written to me from my students. (A big box in my closet gives testimony to my letter/card hoarding.)
Recently, a group of students from my school had to raise support money for a mission trip to Guatemala and one young man decided, along with the form letter from the school, to write a personal letter to each of his prospective contacts. Of the forty students, he raised all his support plus $500.00 more! His mom thinks it was because of the “personal letters” he sent.
So, I would like to know what my readers think: is letter-writing a lost art or is it a good skill to know and foster? (If you need an example of a great letter-writer, look to Apostle Paul…just sayin’ 🙂