The Communication Center – Messages of Love, part 1

  • by Sonya Shoptaugh ON November 8, 2012

    Joy, tenderness, connection, optimism, surprises to be given and received … our communication center at the Model Early Learning Center (the school where I worked for many years) was born out of our desire to give children opportunities to build and strengthen friendships with one another. It was a place of discussion and debate, a place of making marks and messages, and a place where you could always find children busy writing letters to each other, and to Coco, our school cat.

    Coco the Cat lived on the fifth floor of the Capital Children’s Museum where the school was located. He worked and played alongside our 36 young children who adored him immensely.

    First thing when the children would arrive, they would search for Coco in order to say “good morning” and give him a treasure they had found on their way to school (a leaf, a rock, a rubber band) they were sure he would like.

    Coco, in turn, would sit on their drawings and purr, or eat their strips of paper as they attempted to make a weaving.

    The children would gently tell him, “No no Coco,” and usually end up in fits of laughter as he continued to bat at their hands when they tried to keep weaving.

    The collaboration between the children and Coco was both humorous and deeply beautiful. The love they felt for each other permeated the school. He was a large, warm presence in our daily lives.

    And for many of children, Coco was the center of their world. Their desire to show him love knew no bounds, especially when it came to putting things in his mailbox.

    As part of our communication center, we had a collection of mailboxes nearby. Each child, teacher and cat in our school had their own box where messages could be delivered. This area frequently had a lot of activity as sender and receiver often met together to make sure the letter (made with much care) was received in a timely manner, and enjoyed.

    The children seemed to take great pleasure in their power and ability to communicate, to express their love in written form, and to invite connection by giving something made with their hands and their heart.

    Except, that is, when they put notes in Coco’s box. You see, Coco never wrote back, and this was a source of much conversation and consternation.

    “Why don’t Coco write back? I gave him all those notes!” (RS, age 3.5)
    “Coco is a cat, he don’t know how to read and write.” (MK, age 5)
    “But he should learn! Maybe we should teach him.” (RS, age 3.5)

    Despite Coco’s apparent disinterest in responding to messages he had gotten, or his lack of letter writing ability, the children continued to stuff his mailbox with letters. Out of the 40 mailboxes on the wall, Coco’s was the most overflowing. Always. He received – by far – the most messages.

    I believe there is an innate desire to communicate, to relate and to express love. The notes the children continued to write, even though he wouldn’t write back, illustrated the extraordinary power writing messages hold, and how compelled we are to connect in this way.

    Then one day a child came up with a solution for the ‘Coco and his mail’ problem. “Well, if he can’t read yet, then I will just have to read it to him.”

    And from that day forward, Coco not only got letters in his mailbox, but he had children searching for him, finding where he was, then sitting down to read him their messages of love.

  • Comments(3)

    Would love to hear your thoughts! Please feel free to comment.
    • Gail Millward
      November 10, 2012 @ 1:33 am

      Always precious. Love reading your posts!

    • Marianne
      November 10, 2012 @ 2:35 am

      Love letters, indeed. What a great demonstration of the power of paper to hold and release feelings

    • Victoria Miller
      December 27, 2012 @ 1:38 am

      What an awesome story… THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING!

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