Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude #4: Coffee, Candies, and Other Gifts

I've received my fair share of material gifties from students. Starbucks gift cards (woo hoo!), coffee mugs, See's Candies, paper weights, and the like. It's always nice to receive tokens of appreciation. Those gifts come at the expected time of the year: holidays, end of the semester, sometimes right before grading period (ha!).

But when I read today's blog challenge question, "What's the nicest gift you received from a student?", I drew a blank. Though the gifts I've received warmed my heart, none really stood out. When I thought more deeply about the question, I remembered all the little notes and addenda students leave for me on homework assignments and journals.

These types of notes come at random times during the semester, typed or handwritten below a formal assignment or an exit card. Notes that thank me for something I've said or done that someone appreciated. A thank you for a personally meaningful assignment. An acknowledgement that what we did in class made a positive difference.A note sharing a memory or life experience that our lesson has explained or illuminated in a new, meaningful way.

Such comments refer to moments I may only half remember but somehow struck a chord. I'm often floored by students' candid reactions, having either forgotten what what did or said or failing to register the impact I've had. There's so much going on "backstage" that I have no access to unless someone discloses. 

These comments, because of their personal nature, say more to me than Almond Roca or Ferrero Rocher gift box can express. They remind me that what I do and say can have a deep effect on someone, for good or better. And in many (most?) cases, the effects we have on students don't register for months or years after they've left our classes. So when students remind me that something I did or said helped them figure out a problem, overcome a barrier, or open up a social horizon, I remember the importance of our work and the awesome responsibility of facilitating someone's growth.

What a gift to find unexpected notes like these as I grade papers, sipping a free Venti Latte or savoring a chocolate-hazelnut confection!