Is there ANYTHING to look forward to in the mail these days? I have come to realize that mail has sadly enough been dwindled to two categories: junk and bills. One just annoys you (seriously how often am I going to use a 10 percent off coupon for some new shampoo—especially when I am bald!). The other just leads to that moment when you want to smack yourself upside your head for overspending on your credit card (did I really need that McDouble last Wednesday night???). What if I told you there was a way to change that for someone? A way to reach out and say thanks. A way to challenge someone in a positive way. A way to simply let someone know you are thinking of them. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?
The age of technology has arrived. Impersonal e-mails, texts, and instant messages flood us on a daily basis; but there is one form of communication that is certain to shake up the world. We are going old school on this one. Christian teachers, it is time to bring back the art of the thank you note. Mailed. To a specific student’s house. Think about this one … how often does a kid get authentic mail? Birthdays? Graduations? I am racking my brain here. Someone help me out! The point is a well-timed thank you note to a kid could be just what they need to reach that next level. If you express that to your administration before writing them, they will gladly mail them for you.
My team begins this process at the beginning of the year. We divide and conquer. After printing off a list of our entire team, we snag a highlighter and a tub-o-notes. And we begin to write. We write to kids that need the encouragement. Kids that might not get too much praise at home. We write to kids that are simply rock stars in the classroom, praising them for their brilliance and challenging them to continue modeling leadership. We write to encourage kids that need a swift kick in the rear end, telling them we believe in them and know they can achieve. We write to kids that fly under the radar, just to tell them they are noticed. And yes, we even write to our little stinkers too, finding something—anything—to praise.
Now, before you set off on doing this, reflect a minute on what a good thank you note entails. First and foremost, it contains honest and sincere praise. Specific praise. Don’t just say they have been doing great in class. Tell them they dominated the most recent project. You get the point. Secondly, talk about how much you enjoy teaching them. Every kid has something good inside them. For some that is easier to find than others, but I can honestly say that I love something about every kid that steps in my room. Finally, challenge these kids. If they are soaring, tell them you can’t wait to see them soar higher. If they haven’t left the ground, tell them you can’t wait to see them take off. Let them realize their potential. Sometimes they fail to see it unless a respected mentor points it out.
How bout an example? Your note might sound like this: Dear Johnny, I just want to let you know how incredible it has been to see you blossom in class discussions recently. It was awesome to see you open up about the novel we have been reading in class. I can tell you love it and can relate to Salva, the main character. The coolest thing is that the rest of the class is gaining knowledge and understanding—all because you are taking time to speak up. Keep up the amazing work! You have come so far from that shy kid that entered my class back in August. I know you are destined for even more greatness this quarter, and I look forward to teaching you every day. You are a true blessing to our class! Sincerely, Mr. Awesome Teacher Dude.
The results? Astounding. Parents will praise you. Half of these kids have no clue what to do. They are simply shocked. Many will come and thank us. Some will put those notes inside the clear plastic covers of their binders. And yes, there are some that will not say a word, but hey, who said this world was perfect? Paul, one of the greatest encouragers ever, tells us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 11). Paul never failed to reach out and encourage, even if it was from jail. It is time you put on your coach’s hat. Be a Vince Lombardi. A Knute Rockne. (Hey, if we’re talking old school communication, you have to cite some old school coaches!) I bet you had one of those teachers back in the day, didn’t you? Be that teacher. Spur these kids on to reach heights they had only dreamed of. Then sit back and watch them soar.
(Are you a fan of Kid President? This little guy loves to motivate, and his video clip below is worth the few minutes it takes to watch. Show it to your students if they have a big test coming up. But always follow it up with your own speech to reiterate that YOU believe in them too.)