Student Thank-YousToday I wrote and passed out contracts for my juniors and seniors. Given we are a very small school, under 225, our homecoming dance aligns with our basketball season (we do not...
Today I wrote and passed out contracts for my juniors and seniors. Given we are a very small school, under 225, our homecoming dance aligns with our basketball season (we do not have a football team). The contract was one in which I asked my students not to drink, do drugs, drive under the influence, or get into a car with a driver who is under the influence.
Many of my students signed the contract--no questions asked. But, I am not naive, I know that some signed and will not adhere to the contract.
The highlight of my day was when I had a student thank me for caring about them.
Therefore, my question is, what happened in your classroom where a student thanked you for caring? Given these moments are few and far between, I feel like we (as teachers) need to celebrate these moments.
What a great question to contemplate - thank you for starting this discussion! Two of my nicest compliments both came from a current senior. Luke happens to be a student with a very sharp mind, one of those that you just know will go far. I encouraged him to apply for a special summer residential school last year, wrote him a strong recommendation, and was delighted when he got into the program with a full scholarship. In the middle of July I was standing on a sidewalk in the middle of town when a car suddenly screeched to a stop in front of me. The window rolled down, and the student's mother called out at me "Thank you so much for helping get Luke into the summer program! He's loving it!", and then she drove off. I smiled the rest of the day.
In the fall, Luke told me he had written several essays during the summer, and he was wondering if I would read them and tell him which one might be best to adapt as a college application essay. I said I would, and he handed me a sheaf of papers and left for his next class. Imagine my surprise that evening when I discovered that one of the essays was an answer to a prompt to tell about a person who has inspired you and been a large influence in your life - and it was about me. That's a keeper.
Last year, one of our seniors passed away a month before graduation. It was a hard time for our students and staff. The seniors who often felt they were grown adults found themselves not knowing what to do or where to turn. The day we came back to school I stood in front of them not knowing how to address them. After a few minutes of silence I told them how much each and everyone of them meant to me, and reminded them my door was always open if they wanted to talk.
That afternoon I sat at my desk trying to focus and grade papers when a girl knocked on my door. I didn't know her, but her friend had told her about our class, and she wanted to know if she could talk for a moment. I told her of course and ushered her in.
The next day, the student who referred her to my room thanked me for welcoming her friend. She was worried about her, but knew that she couldn't give her friend the support she needed.
Often our students just want to hear and know that some one cares about them.
Each year at Thanksgiving our school has a bit of time set aside for students to write out a quick thank-you slip that will be collected and then distributed to the various teachers throughout the building. It is such a heartwarming surprise to get a few slips that mention things that I didn't even think much of, but that made an impact on the students. I was thanked once for not calling on a student. He explained that my class was the first time he enjoyed coming to English class because he wasn't going to be put on the spot unprepared -- which in the past made him resentful of the class and the material. I was thanked once for being a grammar geek because the student no longer thought she was the only person in the world who enjoyed the challenge of a really complex syntax tree!
I'm not sure if students realize how much such gestures are appreciated and how much they can truly mean. I've been fortunate over the years to have had many appreciative students, and it always touches me deeply when anyone makes the effort to express thanks. In general, I think we all -- students, teachers, and everyone -- operate best when we know that our efforts are appreciated. The idea of a day set aside to encourage this sort of thing is a very nice idea. It might be best, at least at the college level, that students thank teachers they have taken in the past and are unlikely to take again, lest anyone think that a "thank-you" is motivated by a desire for a better grade!
If students only knew how those letters and notes are treasured. I also keep mine, but the best is to see the student years later and have them tell you how much you made a difference. I taught eighth grade, a difficult year for many students, and over the years told several difficult students that they had the ability to go to college. One of those students was living with his father in his father's car, abandoned by mother, and just surviving. When I told him that, his face lit up. Years later, I saw him at a fast food place where he came up to me to tell me that indeed he was a sophomore in college and was very successful. What a gift for a teacher to hear!
Thank yous received years later are also really neat. I encountered the parent of a former student by chance; her daughter had been my student in elementary school and was then in college. Mom and I caught each other up on news and addresses and went on our different ways. A couple weeks later, I opened my snail mail (the only kind there was in that era) to find a wonderful letter. My former student was completing her student teaching experience, having carried my example of all that a teacher should be in her heart and head for all those years! Her description of the impact I had in shaping her career decision was humbling, gratifying, and very fulfilling.
As the original post mentioned, thank you's from students come few and far between. The two "thank you's" I remember most came from students who I saved from two different fights at school: Both were being pummeled by larger students, and after I broke them up, each student graciously thanked me for saving them from further bodily harm. Members of my old weightlifting team often thanked me for opening the weight room early and closing it late: My team was highly motivated and included several individual state champions. I did receive thanks from several students who enjoyed the material after completing a science fiction unit.
Like #7, most of mine have been after graduation, from students who appreciated being prepared for college once they got there (which was always more the result of their own smarts and hard work than anything I did.) I also worked at a school where thanksgiving slips were given out, and it was definitely rewarding to see- I kept every one of them. I do think generally, that students appreciate their teachers more than we realize. It's just not always in the adolescent character to show that kind of gratitude.
Oddly enough, the one I remember best had to do with being a mandatory reporter. A kid told me about something that (she said) was going on with her (parental physical abuse). I didn't really want to report it because I wasn't at all sure what she said was plausible. But I did because I knew I had to. Anyway, she found out that I had told and she told me that she knew I was supposed to and had been trying to find out if I cared enough to tell. She said she was glad to know that I did...
I had a lovely surprise at the end of our prizegiving ceremony this year. One of my students who arrived as an angry young man of 11 with severe dyslexia passed his high school final year this summer, and gave me the biggest bear hug ever. Then he came to my office to discuss a course for next year: he has plans to go to agricultural college. He thanked me for mysupport over the 5 years and for never giving up- even when he did from time to time.
Great discussion. I got a thank you in a round about way. I got a letter from the dean of one of my students. This school asks students to recognize the teacher that has influenced them the most. So, one day I got a piece of mail and a dean's letter saying that this student of mine recognized me as the one who influenced him the most. Needless to day, this was a nice letter to receive.