Several years after I retired I joined a 'senior center's group of retirees or just 'elders,' sort of. Good people, friendly, interactive. Occasionally, non-members stopped by to share in what was going on. Quite a few of us were grandparents or in other 'elder' relationships. Worked out fine.
One day the center administrator passed a letter along to our group leader. The note was from a teacher and the leader read it aloud to all of us; almost immediately we became highly attentive. Several among us 'listeners' asked for a copy, including me. Reconstructed as best I can recollect or can fit in from subsequent group discussions among our participants. The teacher's invitation:
"I am a teacher in California (land of many lost families) who is very desirous of establishing an intergenerational link for my class. I think a large part of the problem our children and our society face is a sense of 'rootlessness'. … I plan to devote a considerable part of my curriculum for this school year to develop a sense of self, family, community, national identity and global citizenship. I want my students to start knowing who they are, why they are that way and that they can influence the conditions they experience.
"I plan to use telecommunications as much as our school's limited resources will allow. I would like to communicate with other classes all over the U.S., especially from areas where ethnicity, cultural values and religion are known to vary from the majority. I would also like to involve as many age groups as I can. I will be interacting with college students, high school and middle school students as well as with all levels of my K-5 school. All communications, to and from are processed via the teacher ensure appropriateness and privacy of the children involved, I will use random or first names only. Many older adults are expected to participate in this program, however, quoting from their letters, except where contents are most general, might be inappropriate, and so are not included. The manager of the school project is the teacher.
Shortly afterward, from the teacher: "Ready or not, HERE THEY COME! Thanks for your patience. I hope you enjoy their introductory letters."
Examples of content AFTER the communications were processed by the project manager:
From an older adult:
I would be pleased to work with your students. I have been quite close to (a high school) intergenerational project and believe that this sort of thing could help a lot of kids.
...another adult wrote:
I will be honored to interact with your youngsters. Being an old newspaper reporter I write in short sentences. Being a little not-yet-grown-up myself I understand and speak their language. My grandmother gave me a vivid recounting of her trip from Missouri to Colorado in a wagon train. And her first trip back in a Model T and many other stories. I'll be glad to share. I love young, open, inquisitive minds.
To which the teacher replied:
You are wonderful! Thank you so much for being willing to interact with my students. I think your perspectives and insights will really enrich their understanding of the world and of life. I will do most anything to help my students expand their thinking and I really appreciate your willingness to help me!
One more adult...
I am fascinated with your project; it sounds and feels just right. I am a seventy-year-old retired physician who is enjoying his retirement. I believe we are all witnesses to our time; we are all making history which succeeding generations will read about in their texts. Real immortality, I believe, is in the passing of ideas from one generation to the next, in holding out our hands to help or to be helped-the gestures are much the same.
Hi my name is Jessie. I am in the fifth grade. I am a girl. My teacher is Mrs.--- . By the way, she is the best teacher there ever was and she's great at making it fun to learn!
My favorite color is purple. What's yours? Do you have any pets? I have two dogs. I like to read about the past and the future. My cousin wants to be a Doctor. I want to be a Lawyer and yell at people. Allen says I'm good at that!
I'm ten years old. My name is Daniel. I love to draw and play football. I really love football. What do you like? Do you like to draw? I do. Maybe I can draw you a picture. I have a turtle and a dog and a snake for a pet. Do you have any pets? Write back please....
How do you do? My name is Joey. Please tell me more about yourself and the newspaper business. My favorite sport is basketball. I like to play Nintendo.
Hi. My name is Aubrey, and Amanda and I are sharing you. This is so exciting like talking to you online. I'd like to know about you and your great grandparents. Oh! and thank you so much for the postcard, too. I know we are going to have so much fun online. Thanks.
The teacher added: That's all for now! The children look forward to hearing from you all.
From an older adult
Thank you for writing your very nice little note to me. I think it was very well done and makes me want to write more. Mrs. ---- sounds like a neat teacher; I'm sure she is proud of you. My favorite colors are violet and purple-my wife likes those colors, too. We have a dog and a cockatoo that is getting old. All he does is scratch. He is hard of hearing, which makes for interesting times.
I'm glad you like to read. The past gives you some idea about how other people did things, and gives you a clue of what to do in the future. The present is where we are now. We all make our own futures, which quickly, too quickly, become our pasts.
Actually, (as a lawyer) yelling will lose you more cases than you will win. Lawyers have to be able to argue, that is, discuss the pros and cons of a case. It takes reasoning ability and a calmness of spirit and a love for justice. I'm sure you are good at a lot of things. You sound full of vim and vigor and enthusiasm. That's great!
Please write to me what you are doing, about what you like to study and whatever else you would like. I will try to be more prompt in answering you. These last few days were hectic for me.
It's nice to meet you this way. I'm glad to hear that Mrs. ---- is your teacher. She sounds great. I'm in good health, thank you for asking. I have three grown boys, but no grandchildren yet. We have an old dog that thinks he is our boss. We really like cats better, but our dog is too old and set in his ways to tolerate any cats.
My youngest son and his girl friend have four cats between them. I like being a retired physician. I don't have to attend emergencies and I can get all the rest I want. When I go to the hospital it is to get medicines.
I like your goals, they are very nice. If you change your mind as you get to look at different professions, that's OK. Whatever you decide, go for the best. A neo-natal nurse is a very good kind of person to be. I think I will be proud of you.
Thank you for writing to me. I will look forward to your reply.
It was a pleasant time I had reading your letter to me. Thank you very much. Football and drawing are favorites of yours. I like football also. In fact, I did play football in high school and college. I was a fullback, but never got to handle the ball. In those days the fullback was like a guard or a tackle. All he did was block for guys who carried the ball.
As for drawing, I'm not very good. In fact I'm terrible. Freehand drawing, that is. What I do instead of drawing is use my computer to do graphics and illustrations.
As you work with computers during your school career I'll bet you'll love some of the creative things you can do with computer drawing programs. My favorite drawing software is called 'Arts & Letters'. It has a lot of pre-drawn illustrations. These are called 'clip art'. I can, for instance, call up an illustration of an airplane. Then I can do all sorts of interesting things to change how the airplane looks. It's a lot of fun.
As for collecting things, I like funky menus. The funkier the better. Last month I was in a place in Wyoming where the menu was printed inside an old newspaper. The newspaper had stories that actually were in newspapers from the late 1890s, when trappers and explorers were just pushing into Wyoming territory. I got so interested in reading all those stories the waitperson had to come by twice to get me to order. The menu was in the middle of the foldout old paper. So if you ever run across a funky menu, send it my way. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
Thanks, and let's keep exchanging information. I enjoy hearing all about you, your school and your friends. And what you like and don't like. Turtles? Snakes? My goodness! I'll pass on both of those. I live in an apartment and no pets are allowed. But for several years, until he died, I had a cat, properly named BearCat. Bear hated to ride in the car. It was an annual battle of wills between Bear and me to get him his shots at the vet. I miss Bear.
From the teacher, addressed to all who interacted with her students:
My students have so enjoyed the exchanges we have had so far. I hope you will continue to write to us!
My students are afraid you will forget about them and asked me to remind you that we are here and we love your messages. If we owe you letters, please forgive us; we will remedy that as quickly as we can! If you 'owe' us letters, please write.
I leave you with this somewhat apt quote from LIVE AND LEARN AND PASS IT ON (a lovely little book given to me by a former student):
'I've learned that young people need old people's love, respect, and knowledge of life, and that old people need the love, respect and strength of young people.' (The writer was 85 years old.)
An elderly person wrote and asked, 'How do we get to write to children?'
To which the teacher replied:
Writing to the children is easy! Just jump right in and do it! They are really 'into' this now and will snap up your request. I would like to start having them each (29 of them) choose a particular friend here so I still need a larger pool of adult writers.
What others have done is simply write and post a brief letter telling about themselves, some idea where they live, their interests, anecdotal family history that children might relate to, work background, etc.
Thanks for your interest. We hope to hear from you soon!