Teach & Serve
No. 9 * September 29, 2015
Related Content from And There Came A Day:
- Teach & Serve No. 8 – “Have I Properly Confused You?”
- Teach & Serve No. 7 – “If You’re Not Research Based, You’re Shadow Boxing”
- Teach & Serve No. 6 – “It’s in the Doing That Things Get Done”
- Teach & Serve No. 5 – “Jesus Sent Them Two-by-Two; It’s about Relationship”
Gratitude – Saying “Thank You”
Sometimes saying “thank you” is all you need to say
Meister Eckhart was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic who lived in the mid-1200s to the mid-1300s. Well known for his teachings and sayings, Eckhart offered one quote in particular that I have come back to time-and-again as a mantra for my life both personally and professionally: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Eckhart is talking about one’s relationship with God and there is no denying the power of these words in that context. But, outside connection to the divine, this thought has power on its own.
I can remember many times in my life as a classroom teacher when a student left the room with a quick word of thanks for the just completed class – and, of course, I can also recall far more times when students blew out the doors thrilled to be free and the last thing on their minds was gratitude, except that the period was finally over – but it’s the times when I was thanked for my teaching that stick with me. In those moments I felt that it was quite nice of the student to be thankful for whatever I’d just put her or him through, that it was above-and-beyond the role of student to be so gracious as to offer gratitude for the work I’d put into preparing the lesson.
Often, during Parent/Teacher Conferences (are there three more dreaded words for a classroom teacher – and why is that, anyway), parents would thank me for the impact I was making on their child, for something I’d said in class that was talked about at the dinner table, for opening some new world to their kid. Special moments, these, as well.
Appreciation means a lot.
It seems to me that one of the most effective tools I employed as an administrator was simply thanking people around me for the good work they were accomplishing. When I noted something going well and told someone about it, good things tended to happen. It didn’t take much for me to block out a few minutes of my day to write a note (and I do mean write a note on a notecard, not just fire off an email) to a colleague to thank them for something they had done. It took very little effort to recognize the good things that were going on in school, in the classroom and out. Notes of encouragement for moderators before big meets or for coaches after significant losses, notes of gratitude for good work accomplished and notes of thank you for those completing extra tasks mean
something – provided they are genuine; provided they are from the heart.
Offering gratitude and thanks is not a tactic. For me, it is not a management strategy but a mindset. There is so much going on around us as teachers and administrators – so much wonderful stuff – so much to be thankful for that, if we cannot recognize it, we must take a significant step back and evaluate how we are approaching our work.
And we should not be reluctant to share our thanks with our students. In most places in which we work, we push our students fairly hard and pretty quickly. We ask a lot of them from attention in class to mastery of material, to completing long assignments. Our thanks to them for doing these things means as much to them as their thanks to us does.
“Thank you for your hard work on this research paper.”
“Thanks for the effort on this lab.”
“Thanks for your attention in class today. I know that was tough material.”
Words like these change the atmosphere in a very good and very healthy way.
Balance is important. As with anything we do as teachers or administrators, tilting too far to one extreme or another can be detrimental to our long term credibility. If all I become is a “thank you machine” – if the only messages colleagues received from me was “hey, that’s great” and they never heard from me on substantive issues, that would be a problem. If all I became was a cheerleader for the school, a wisher of well, a “Julie McCoy” for my staff, I would be missing critical component of what it means to be a servant leader. Balance is key.
Framing ourselves in a space of gratitude to those with whom we journey in our schools can make a difference for them. It can also make a great difference for us, too. It’s hard to be frustrated and tired and at wits end when we are grateful. Gratefulness is a wonderful frame of mind to adopt. Sometimes saying “thank you” is all we need to say.