Before I started working with kids, I didn’t know the value of saying “thank you.”
Sure, I had been conditioned to say please and thank you from the time I could first talk, but conditioning doesn’t necessarily make a person understand value. For me, it took the experience of not being thanked and of seeing others not being thanked that made me realize how important these two small words can be.
Working with kids is hard. Working with kids who have attitudes and don’t follow rules and have trauma backgrounds and don’t get enough attention is even harder. I learned this quickly when I was working as an AmeriCorps volunteer in a special education classroom. There was a teacher, a paraprofessional and myself working in the class with 10 kids and it still got out of control sometimes. Despite all the effort and money she put in, I noticed that my teacher was rarely thanked for the hard work that she did. It seemed like, if anything, other teachers and administrators would look at her and our kids and make comments about us “disrupting” others classes.
During the two years that I worked in that school, I made it my mission to show teachers the appreciation that they deserved by hosting appreciation breakfasts and leaving notes or getting supplies for their classes. And it helped. Even if that moment only lasted for the day, the “thank you” lifted the teachers’ spirits.
On the other side of the coin, I noticed how much of a difference saying “thank you” made to students. Most of the day, students are told what to do and when to do it by every adult that lays eyes on them. And they are expected to do whatever it is – whether they like it or not.
But an amazing thing started to happen when I began thanking students for doing what had been asked of them. Although some said it didn’t make sense to thank students for things that they were expected to do, I found that recognizing students’ efforts and thanking them for it sometimes led to them being more productive or less difficult later on. Thanking students helped me build relationships with even the most difficult of kids – the students that made even the best teachers frustrated. Since my time in AmeriCorps, I have learned that saying thank you and speaking your appreciation out loud is a pretty powerful force.
Today, I received a thank you from a parent that I’m working with – and let me tell you, I needed it. I felt crappy all day and was getting a migraine when a parent called me. At the end of our conversation, she said “I just want to say thank you for always following up with me and checking in. A lot of other people don’t do that, so thank you.” It didn’t change the fact that I wasn’t feeling great or that my head was splitting in pain, but it did make me feel appreciated and happy. It was like a dose of sun on a dreary day.
With that, I thank you for taking the time to read a blog written by me, a person who you may or may not know. Because it really does bring a small sunny moment to my day.