Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thank-You Notes

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?


Anne said...

Thank you for writing thank-you notes! It really is a lost art, I think. You're setting a good example for your students as well as showing your appreciation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for setting a good example.

So many of these small kind gestures are being lost in the hectic shuffle of daily life. Sometimes, a short note of appreciation is what brings the biggest smiles and fondest memories.

Like many gestures of good manners, they are all fading away.

Carol said...

I've always written thank you notes for any gifts that students or their parents give me. Most of them REALLY seem to appreciate the effort. I've always felt that if someone thinks enough of me to give me a gift, then I can certainly express my thanks in writing.

I agree that it's almost becoming a lost art, and I think that's a shame.

buffi said...

My daughter is always thrilled to get a thank you note from her teacher for the gifts she gives. I made sure to write thank yous to my kindergartners when I taught. They were just tickled to get a note from me at all.

I've been surprised lately to hear from a cople of friends whose children's teachers did not write thank you notes for gifts. What a poor example.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher (long-term sub - emergency permit) at a continuation school in LA county. This is my first time in front of a classroom, and my first semester in my credential program. (Single subject-math, and I'm teaching world history & math.)

Like you, I've already gotten the best gift possible this Christmas - a card from a student that said: "Thanks for everything. It really help."

This was from a young lady (ELD student, if you hadn't guessed already!) who was struggling with VERY basic arithmatic. All I did was work with her to show her she COULD do the work, and tell her she seemed to be pretty good at it, too. Same thing any teacher would do, right?
She believed me, gave it a try, and proved that she COULD do it - and then there was no stopping her in math!

She apoligized for only being able to give me a card for christmas. It was all I could do to keep from crying, when I told her she didn't need to give me anything - that this and her doing well was the best gift I'd ever been given. And she doesn't know it, but she is most definitly getting a Thank You note after break.

God, I love teaching!

Darren said...

Anonymous: may you maintain that fervor for at least as long as I have :-)

Christine said...

I always write thank you notes to my students. Because of the format of that last day, I can usually write the notes before they leave for break.

Many of my students have never before received a thank you note and are amazed that I've taken the time to write one. I use those notes to recognize the student not only for the gift, but for their contributions to their class. Students are sometimes surprised that I notice things they think are going on without my knowledge.

I love writing thank you notes.

Anonymous said...

I also get holiday and end of school gifts from students. However, I mail thank you notes home because I feel it is awkward to hand them out at school.