2019 Pen-Pals From Sarawak With Love (And One Nightmare!)
|My students with the pen-pal letters they received from SMK Takis Papar, Sabah.|
In this day & age, what kind of long-form writing do people still perform? For most people, it’s emails. I could do an email exchange program for my students, but I don’t like how I’m unable to vet every reply to ensure that (1) respect was shown to the recipient, (2) effort was put into the reply, and (3) content is appropriate. The best equivalent to emails is snail mail letters. Since this was my first year at the school, I did a pilot program to see how pen-pal exchanges would work in my current context, since it worked spectacularly for my previous school in rural Sarawak.
|Siti Nordiana was one of the students who put in a lot of extra effort to make their letters presentable.|
Selecting an exchange partner is very important, they have to be strict with their students to ensure that the students meet the monthly deadlines, & vet every letter to ensure its quality & worthiness to bear the school name. I’m doing that myself & I do reject sub-standard submissions from my students, so I expect my partners to do the same. In that regard, Cikgu Adelyn Chin at SMK Takis Papar, Sabah, did an excellent job. Her students were of a higher proficiency level than mine, but she soothed their complaints about my students’ letters & coaxed them into writing according to their level instead of my students' & to treat this program like a writing practice.
|Just like Aedelica Averil's work, I recognized my student's effort by taking a picture of them with their work & posting it with praise in the school's WhatsApp group. I promoted the kind of work that I wanted to see more of.|
That’s not the worst part, the sole batch of letters from Oxburgh were so bad, it was painfully embarrassing for me to present it to my students after enthusiastically selling them the pen pal program. Why? (1) the letters we received didn’t indicate who the recipients were, (2) participants were changed without my knowledge, (3) there was a shortage of letters, (4) students weren't keen & that was reflected in the quality of the letters, & (5) a few copied from each other. It was obvious that the teacher did not do his part in checking his students’ work, or even something as basic as ensuring that every one of my students got a letter. Honestly, it was so professionally offensive to receive such shoddy work. The biggest losers were my 40 students who missed out on a great year-long writing activity.
|Jessie & Filipi made some beautiful letters too!|
Have you run a pen pal program? Would you like to partner with me next year? Let me know in the comments!
View all photos here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/jarodyjk/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2293555897440476
|Every one of the participants from SMK Takis Papar got a certificate from my school & vice versa.|