Monday, July 25, 2011

Thank-you Notes (Originally published December 2005)

It's that time of year again. As I've told you before, I teach in a rather upscale area, and it's not uncommon at my school for teachers to get an almost-obscene number of cards and gifts. I'm sure everyone accepts them with an overabundance of genuine gratitude and humility. I certainly do.

I don't know about other teachers--and I certainly don't ask!--but I always write thank you cards and bring them to school the first day after Christmas Break ends. Yes, I take note of each gift I receive and write each student a thank you card. I do give the cards to students during class, when everyone's working independently, but I certainly don't make a major production of it. In fact, I do it in as unassuming a manner as possible, at least as unassuming as one can be whilst walking around a classroom giving envelopes to certain students.

In years past the response to such cards has been interesting. Students seem surprised to get them. Is this a lost art? Am I violating some taboo or something? I don't know. But I do it, and I'll continue to do it. Gratitude is nice, but recognizing generosity is even better.

I didn't always do this. My parents always taught me to say "thank you", of course, but it was West Point that instilled in me the necessity of sending thank you notes. We were taught to do so, and even taught a format for writing such notes! It sounds very clinical but the results speak for themselves. Students seem genuinely pleased to be recognized personally this way. And maybe I'm teaching them something besides math as well. What do they call that in ed school, "modeling appropriate behavior"?

Yes, I know that it was probably the parents who bought and/or wrapped the gifts, but it was the students who gave them to me. They're the ones whose names are on the cards, and they're the ones I address the thank-you cards to.

I received a Christmas card from a student today. There was a personal note in it. Tucked in between "Happy Santa Day" and "Have a great break" was the comment, "You are such an awesome teacher...." Is there anything more a teacher could ask for than the appreciation of his students? What better gift could I hope to receive?


KauaiMark said...

Sorry, When I saw the title, I had a Jimmy Fallon flashback

Colin Davies said...

We have drilled our daughter in the importance of thank you notes. She gripes, but does them anyway. The recipients are always startled to receive them. O tempora o mores!

W.R. Chandler said...

So what is the West Point thank you card format? Do tell!

Darren said...

Paragraph 1: brief introduction (e.g., Thank you for having me over for dinner.)
Paragraph 2: I don't remember what they called it, but I call it "nice filler: (e.g., It's been so long since I've had a home-cooked meal; the Mess Hall isn't bad, but there's just something different about food cooked in a home.)
Paragraph 3: Closing (I think you get the idea!)