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I had never thought of studying or even reading quantum physics because I thought I just wasn't clever enough to understand that field. Then I chanced to meet a quantum physicist who studies the Sun at a British space and science laboratory. I sent a personal, handwritten follow-up note saying how pleased I was that we'd met. That began a year-long correspondence. In that time, I simply had to find out what a solar physicist carried as thoughts--we all know what doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, dentists carry in their thoughts (teeth, math equations, students, laws, medicine), but what do quantum physicists carry?? Being clever enough or not, I simply had to find out. I poured over every solar physics book at my local library then started reading quantum physics. As a result of the note, I gained an interesting correspondence and a love of quantum physics. Now, I write articles about quantum physics along with working for eNotes. It was a pretty successful personal, handwritten note, I'd say.
I have had several experiences where others wrote highly effective notes to me, especially from former members of my team at the end of my career. Where I have used handwritten notes myself to great effect is to write several notes during the course of a student teacher's time with me. With never enough time to cover every item which would help a student teacher, notes can be encouraging, offer positive reinforcement for trying a new strategy even if it was not the most successful, remind them that we learn the most from our mistakes, and above all, pursue excellence in their teaching. I found that the notes opened up the communication lines with student teachers even more. Just as the notes home to parents open up positive communication with parent and teaching working together to help students be successful learners, these notes helped student teachers be more successful learners to teach more effectively.
A number of years ago, a coworker made a highly sexist remark about my supervisor in a conversation with me. I was too appalled and stunned to make any immediate reaction, but the more I thought about it, the more angry and disgusted I became.
Because I did not want any possibility of there ever being any way of tracing the comment or my reaction to it, I used pen and paper to write my impression of the incident and my request that the coworker reexamine his attitudes and comments. I put the note in a sealed envelope with his name on the outside and left it in his mailbox in the facility mailroom.
Several days later, I received a handwritten apology and admission of being completely out of line from the coworker. We never spoke of the incident again, but I believe/hope that he was a little more sensitive to what he was saying as a result of that exchange.
I can only reemphasize the importance of teachers sending positive notes home to parents. In this day and age, I would argue that a handwritten note actually means more due to the time required to complete it. I have seen some teachers (I've never done it) who actually use sticky notes to put on students' desks to either correct them or provide praise, especially during silent time in the classroom. As far as personal correspondence via written notes, that has become a dying art, I'm afraid, and I don't see it coming back, except in socially-prescribed forms like thank you notes and invitations, which have already gone digital.
As a previous manager in business, I found that handwritten notes to employees added that personal touch that opened up the lines of communication between my employees and myself. Oftentimes, I would leave a personal note for an employee who would come in for a later shift when I was not present. This note was personal communication between myself and the employee and I would use these notes to give praise for jobs well done as well as for instructions for further work to be performed on their shift. These personal notes were on top of individual telephone, and face-to-face communication with employees. Running a 24-hour food operation, it was not always possible to see every employee every day - as shifts conflicted - the personal note addressed to an employee was a great way to interact with each on an individual basis.
As a teacher, handwritten notes gather quite a bit of attention when you write them to students on their assignments. I think they are particularly effective when they include praise for a job well done and suggestions on how to improve a piece of work.
On several ocassions I have received notes from administrators. Sometimes these are positive and sometimes not, but it does seem to be a little more personal than an email, and a lot more personal than a memo or form letter.
One word of caution---handwritten notes can create a lot of frustration when you cannot read the handwriting!
Teachers can definitely benefit from handwritten messages, especially to parents. Most notes sent home by children are of a negative nature, but nothing makes a parent smile like receiving a note of a totally positive nature concerning their child. I always tried to send home such a letter to parents early each year, before poor grades or bad behavior necessitated a less-than-positive warning letter.
Using a personal handwritten note can have long-lasting benefits in establishing a personal connection with individuals. As a teacher, I make a point of using personal notes at the beginning of the school year to foster positive relationships with both students and parents. Many times parents only experience negative interactions with their student's teachers, so at the beginning of the year, I take the time to write a personal note about how much I am enjoying their child in my class. On a professional level, taking the time to write a personal handwritten note over sending an email conveys the idea that I am invested in their student on a personal, caring level; moreover, the handwritten letter sets off the budding student-teacher relationship on an even more positive note.
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