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Jan. 21 - Walden Elementary School’s post office delivers valuable writing practice
The couriers march down the “street”, stopping at each mailbox with a raised flag to retrieve the messages within, tucking it securely into their mail bag. Neither snow nor rain keeps these mail carriers from delivering their rounds of letters – unless school is closed due to inclement weather.
The mail carriers work at the Wee Deliver post office at Walden Elementary School, and when they’re not delivering letters, they’re students in grades two through five. The Wee Deliver post office, with help from its staff, which includes student volunteers and two teachers, enables students, staff and families to write and send letters to anyone in the building.
Students serve as mail carriers at Wee Deliver for a month. To be considered for the position, they must apply by submitting a statement explaining why they want to join the post office and also must have a teacher’s recommendation.
Before school, on Wednesdays and Fridays, the postal “workers” arrive, split into groups and walk through the hallways gathering mail from the mailboxes. They then converge at the “sorting station” and meticulously check each letter to ensure it’s addressed properly. If the envelope passes muster it’s stamped with a “cancellation stamp” which clears it for delivery. Envelopes with errors are marked with a “return to sender” stamp and sent back to the sender for correction.
The hallways of the school are transformed into “roads” and “avenues” with inspiring names such as: Responsible Road, Achievement Avenue, Creative Court. Each classroom or office has a number. Writers address their envelopes as they would at a typical post office. The name of the student or teacher goes in the center, beneath that; the room number of the classroom and the name of the hallway (“road”) in which the classroom is located. At the bottom, students write the city, state and zip code of WES. They include their own information for the return address.
The couriers take envelope addressing very seriously. This week, one sender has mixed up the “to” and “from” fields on the envelope. The mail carriers discuss whether or not it should be deemed deliverable. After a hearty debate, they agree to deliver the letter this time, since the sender did write the words “to” and “from”, but ask Mrs. Suzanne Eastwood, Reading Teacher at WES and Wee Deliver’s coordinator, to speak with the student about the importance of keeping the fields consistent in the future.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to participate in Wee Deliver as carriers,” Mrs. Eastwood said. "They build self-esteem and learn critical skills such as responsibility and collaboration.”
The carriers aren’t the only students who benefit from Wee Deliver. WES has a writing pilot program which aims to develop students’ writing and critical thinking skills. Students are able to write letters to any person in the building – other students, teachers, administration or staff – and students’ families are also welcome to send letters via the mailbox at the school greeters’ desk. Even Santa Claus is known to participate – over the holiday 2015 season, Santa and students used the Wee Deliver post office to communicate with one another.
“It’s an authentic writing experience that ties in wonderfully with different activities happening throughout the year,” Literary Consultant Amy Wendel, who helps manage Wee Deliver at WES, said. “The focus here is creating opportunities for students to be able to write more, and the post office engages and motivates students to write to an actual audience, rather than as an assignment to be graded. It helps students build confidence in their writing skills.”
“I like to write letters back and forth with my friend, Sebastian,” said Joseph Rossi, a fourth-grade student at WES who is one of January’s mail carriers. “My favorite part is stamping and sorting the mail. It’s really good practice, especially if you want to be a mail carrier.”