Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.
This spring I mailed three boxes of professional books I’d accumulated over the past few years and no longer needed to a school in Ohio. My friend Jennifer Schwanke, who is the principal there, sent an email with a goofy picture attached of her opening the boxes, thanking me for the gift she would share with the teachers on staff. I thought it was a terrific thank-you note — prompt and creative, with a funny visual.
I was surprised a couple weeks later when a thick packet arrived in my mail full of handwritten thank-you notes, on deluxe creamy linen stationery. Jen had set out the books in a conference room for any teacher to browse and pick titles to keep. Her only requirement was that if anyone took a book, they had to write a thank-you note to me that Jen would mail. Each note was personal. One teacher explained how she had loaned out and lost a favorite professional book a year before, and now had reclaimed that same title from the pile. Another teacher was excited to see a new book by her favorite teacher author. Others wrote about beginning their summer reading stacks with what they’d selected.
The notes reminded me that there is an art to writing good thank-you notes. They don’t have to be handwritten, though that’s a nice bonus in these days of almost everything coming our way virtually. They don’t have to be long either. It’s impressive how pithy, personal, and warm some people can be in a brief thank-you note. But they do have to convey a connection, and a motivation beyond a duty imposed by someone else.
I contrasted this stack of notes with the worst thank-you note I ever received. I’d sent a check to a friend’s child who had just graduated from high school. Inside were scrawled these words, with no salutation or signature:
Thanks for gift.
Granted, I’d put little effort into writing a check, but surely I’d earned at least a “the” between “for” and “gift.”
My favorite thank-you note disaster story was relayed by another good friend whose son had just celebrated First Communion. His mom provided him with a stack of note cards and a list of people who had given gifts. The boy dutifully wrote notes and shoved them into envelopes before going outside to play. My friend was concerned about how quickly he completed the task. She decided to spot check a couple for spelling, and was horrified to see all the notes had the same text:
Thanks for my First Communion gift. I cleared $387.
After giving her son a lesson on why this was a truly unholy response to a high holy event, the notes were rewritten with closer supervision.
One of the best barometers of the climate in a classroom or school is the presence of gratitude. We need to teach children how to give and receive thanks. The receiving can be as hard as the giving — by adolescence, many of us have learned to block praise or compliments because we are no longer certain they are genuine. Fostering gratitude can begin with simple things — a stash of lovely stationery and an option in writing workshops to create thank-you notes is a start. Giving learners of any age the tools to express appreciation is a reminder for all of us to look for something every day, no matter how small, worthy of thanks.
This week we consider oral language in classrooms. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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A quick programming note — we’re off next week for our annual one-week summer break.
Ann Marie Corgill uses a Conversation Circle to build community and conversation skills in her sixth-grade classroom:
Cathy Mere believes we need to look beyond levels to consider social needs when grouping for instruction:
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan share a ritual teachers can use with students to help them describe learning:
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Katie DiCesare thinks about what language supports student independence early in the year and how to share this in an anchor chart with her first graders:
Mary Lee Hahn explains how The Weird Wonders of Genius Hour foster the language of risk, exploration and uncertainty with her fifth graders all year long:
In this week’s video, Sean Moore does some quick check-in conferences with his second graders:
Stella Villalba finds what English language learners need more than almost anything else is patience with silence and time to formulate responses:
In an encore video, Karen Terlecky is Highlighting Language in a Writing Conference with one of her fifth grade students:
If you’ve fallen behind on your newsletter reading during the crazy busy final stretch of the school year, a great place to catch up on what you missed is the Big Fresh Archives. You can read all the back issues at this link:
That’s all for this week!