On the Receiving End
This afternoon I received this lovely thank you note from the four grade five students I mentored during their Exhibition of Learning. It made my day! They took time to hand write it and add their personal touch to the cover. But as I read their notes, my heart grew even fuller. Their specific thank you notes made me feel valued, and they helped me see what they saw as most helpful in our work together. Next year, when I take on another group, I’ll make sure to keep doing the things these grade fives found useful.
They may not realize that their thank you note was a strategic form of compliment feedback. But their teacher does, and she worked with them to study mentor thank you notes and craft their own. She wants to be sure each mentor feels the time they spent working with their groups was worthwhile so we will put our hands up again next year she needs mentors. I know I will.
Several years ago, one of my colleagues and close friends, Amanda, taught me the power of handwritten thank you notes in the work we do with teachers. Every summer, I stalk up on thank you cards and keep them stashed in my desk, nightstand, and travel bag.
As a Literacy Coach, I use handwritten thank you notes to give compliment feedback to teachers. I am always on the lookout for other opportunities to encourage teachers, show them that they are valued, and nudge them to keep doing the good work they are already doing by naming it for them. This is the same thing we do in our one-on-one conferences with students. We research, then give a compliment by naming something the student is doing that we would like to see them transfer to other work in the future.
In the beginning of the year, I do lots of drop in classroom visits. After the first one, I write a thank you note and offer one or two compliments that focus on what the teacher was doing
and how that impacted student engagement, trust, or learning (things I know each teacher values). Once we move into coaching cycles, I’ll wait and write a thank you note at the end of our cycle.
I carry a notebook and pencil for all my coaching work and take notes much like I would while researching student work in a conference. When I am back at my desk, I reread my notes to help me craft my thank you note. Opening up our classrooms can make some teachers nervous, so I try leave it on their desk before they go home at the end of the day.