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Posted at 02:48 PM ET, 02/14/2012

Valentine’s Day an elementary lesson in correspondence and kindness

When students arrived at Burning Tree Elementary School on Tuesday morning, their classrooms were transformed into dream sequences of red streamers and glitter hearts. Desks had new pink butcher paper tops and bulletin board were adorned with red-felt lipstick smudges.

Burning Tree E.S. fifth-grader Amy Richards, 10, double-checks to see whether the doorway streamers are straight after she helped parents of fellow students put up decorations Tuesday. (Michael S. Williamson - THE WASHINGTON POST)
By afternoon, any formalities of the school day were expected to fade away as as classroom parties got going in earnest and children were invited to decorate heart-shaped magnets, don valentine-themed temporary tattoos and run relay races while sucking paper hearts at the end of straws.

If Valentine’s Day is a day of romance or longing for adults, for children it’s a highly anticipated classroom party and an early experiment with correspondence.

The main event is still the pile of Valentine cards and candies that children give and receive.

In Ms. Askin’s first grade class, mailboxes constructed from recycled milk cartons and construction paper awaited the all-important morning Valentine delivery.

The first gift came from their teacher, a poem attached to shiny pencils covered in XX’s and OO’s.

Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
You are so Sweet
And your teacher loves you.

But each brought something for everyone, whether a hand-made card or a lollipop with a to-and-from tag attached.

Askin said she tries to make Valentine’s day a lesson in kindness. After her students read their notes, she reminds them to go around to each of their classmates and say “Thank You!”

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