Student Voice: On Gratitude

Some months ago I wrote about what I considered a unique and delightful trend at the high school where I teach. Over the past several years many of my colleagues and I have noticed a significant increase in the number of students who say “Thank you” to the teacher as they leave the classroom. I shared my thoughts on the positive impact of that practice, and added comments from colleagues as well.

Jessica Montmorency Nisenbaum receives a goodbye hug from a student at Malcolm X Elementary School, Berkeley, CA.

Today, as we wrap up National Teacher Appreciation Week (see: NEA and PTA), I’ve pulled together a sampling of students’ thoughts and comments about saying thank you to teachers. I’m keeping the students’ identities private, though the responses were not anonymous. I’ve made editorial decisions about which ones to include, and have shortened some of their responses, but I haven’t revised their words at all. These students are in grades 10-11 at Palo Alto High School.

Please describe when and why you thank your teachers.

  • I always thank my teachers at the end of the period, as I am walking out of their classroom. I thank my teachers to send them the message that I, along with other students, appreciate the fact that they dedicate their life to helping people learn.
  • I thank my teachers when they help me out, drop things by, check on me, and at the end of class. I thank my teachers because they sacrifice their days to educate insufferable children and deserve at least this small measure of respect.
  • In the beginning, I found myself thanking teachers after class because I came to recognize the efforts that teachers make to educate the future generation.
  • I do make an effort to thank all the substitute teachers [emphasis added] I have since I don’t think they get the gratitude or respect from students they deserve.
  • I try to thank my teachers after every class. The reason I thank my teachers is because it builds a more human relationship and shows respect for the teacher. Also thanking them for the information and insight they gave me.

Please share anything you recall about when you started doing this, and the reason that you started.

  • I think this awareness came from community service and teaching other children what I can offer. Many of the small children had attitudes that did not acknowledge the hard efforts that the volunteers worked in order to create a fun and educative environment for these students. So, I decided to start thanking educators in recognition of their efforts to teach a rowdy mass of high-school students.
  • I started doing this around 6th grade. Initially, I only said thank you when my math teacher gave me candy for answering a problem correctly. However, it later developed into a habit that I said to teachers after each class session. I remember in 7th grade I used to not thank my science teacher since I really didn’t like her. My parents forced me to give winter break gifts to all my teachers that year. She ended up appreciating the gift more than all my other teachers did (possibly since it was unexpected), and I felt bad for not thanking her for her time as I left class like I did with my other teachers, so I started to the next semester.
  • I started thanking my teachers in 7th grade when I figured out that teachers are human too and treating them as such builds a better relationship.

I do have to disagree with one part of one comment: our students are not insufferable, though certainly, there are challenges. I love the insights these students offer regarding the development of their own awareness of teachers as people, and their recognition that such gestures are meaningful and effective. There’s a virtuous cycle of gratitude, as each time thanks are offered, they inspire even more gratitude in the recipient. So, today, I’m particularly grateful for the appreciation shown to me and my colleagues, for a day, or a week. And I’m sure we’re all especially grateful for the small, authentic, ongoing demonstrations of gratitude that happen throughout the year.

Originally posted at my EdWeek Teacher blog, Capturing the Spark (5/12/17).

One thought on “Student Voice: On Gratitude

  1. Hi, David. You inspired me to connect with my high school’s teachers. I want to say how grateful I am to them. They and my parents are my foundation. Thank you for article.

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