US Primary schools answer to pupils parents being away.


Book Reviewer
Found this heart warming story on tinternet. Maybe those who are away and have children could do the same.

"Dot Brown's first-graders at East Beauregard Elementary stand a little taller and speak a little louder now as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Brown said that's because her students are starting to understand what it means to serve in the military. The children have been corresponding via e-mails, and even "snail-mail," with Sgt. Joey Bartz, the father of one of Brown's students, Maili, since November. Bartz is attached to an Army medic unit serving in Iraq.

On a recent Thursday, the students wrote letters to "Mr. Joey," chatting about everything from classroom assignments to dinosaurs. They also made shamrocks to send him for St. Patrick's Day. "Green is Mr. Joey's favorite color," Brown reminded the students.

It takes about a week for the correspondence flow to go full circle. Brown said students are on constant vigil listening for the "ping" - the noise the class computer makes when an e-mail arrives. "Oh, they can't wait," she said.

Bartz personalizes messages for each of the children. He lists their names and has something personal to say to each of them. When the children send Bartz messages, they write about a sibling or what they had to eat that day. But sometimes the talk becomes more serious, Brown said. "Sometimes they'll tell him things like, 'My papa died' - he's kind of like their Dear Abby," she said. The children ask Bartz about what he eats, where he sleeps and about his job in the Army. In return, Bartz, who is studying to be a teacher, quizzes them about history and math. "He'll ask them things like who was the first president and what is 1,000 plus 1,000," Brown said.

The children also have running jokes with Bartz - ones that only they understand. In their e-mails and letters, students refer to Baghdad as "Baghdaddy," and sometimes call Bartz "Mr. Fancy Pants." "And he plays right along with it," Brown said. "He said that his friends get a kick out of some of the things they say. They have kids, too, and understand."

Brown said it's just chitchat to most, but it means so much more to the class. She said when students learned Bartz would be moving camps and would not be able to write for a while, they were "heartbroken." And when Bartz's correspondence was threatened by a problem with his computer's power cord, the children brainstormed ways to repair it.

Students have also sent Bartz care packages, some filled with candy and colored artwork. Once, when they sent Bartz a pillowcase they made for him, he sent a message back that he had "never slept better."

Brown said she believes the correspondence has also helped Maili deal with her father's absence. "It's funny - sometimes she slips and calls him 'Mr. Joey,'" Brown said. Brown said she thinks it has also helped her class bond. "It has brought them closer," she said.

The students are working to craft a book about a hero in which Bartz is featured as the main character. However, most have never actually met him, and he is not scheduled to return home until November, when the children will have moved on to the second grade and new teachers. Until then, the class will continue doing their duty by offering an unending stream of love, admiration, friendship and support for "Mr. Joey." "I hope he will be able to come to the school when he gets home and meet the students," Brown said. "They would love it." "

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