The Power of Thank You

Happy mid-week! Did everyone survive a week of tornadoes?

I’m getting a lot of great feedback already on So Over My Head from some of you sweet readers who have contacted me on Facebook (my home away from home). We don’t have many reviews on places like Amazon yet, so if you would like to write a review to make my book feel less lonely, I would love you forever. Reviews are what we live and die by, whether we should or not. I never buy ANYTHING without consulting my psychic my magic 8 ball my Lipton tea leaves my neighbor’s arthritic knee Amazon.

Living room update. I sold my old furniture yesterday! WOOO! I braved it and listed it with Creepy Craig’s List one more time a few days ago. Then yesterday morning, I walked by that stupid couch, laid hands on it, and prayed over it like it was diseased, and thanked God for it selling. By that afternoon it had sold. So glad to see that go. And it went to a really nice person who will appreciate it’s plush-ness and nap-ability.

This is that time of year when sweet children are graduating. Cards to buy. Gifts to give. Today when I came in to my classroom, I had a three page note waiting on my desk. It was a thank you note from a student who will soon be graduating. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever received.

If you rewound my life’s tape four years, you would find me in my first year at a high school, teaching with a large group of other ninth grade teachers. We had all been happy at our little junior highs until the district decided freshmen needed to be with the high school. So seeing how we were their teachers and all, we had to go with them. Our high school is large. It currently has over 3200 kids. I never, ever wanted to work on this campus that was two times the size of my home town. But we didn’t have a choice. That year would turn out to be one of the craziest, most unorganized, chaotic messes ever. And to top that off, I was writing books and still teaching full time. I thought I was going to die. Every day I got out of my car, I would think, “Is this the day I go inspect the front grill of the bus–while it’s still in motion?”  When we weren’t teaching in chaos, we were in meetings trying to decipher new upcoming chaos. If you want to really deflate a struggling teacher, stick her in a meeting on every day that ends in “y.” So all that to say, we were in hell. We were miserable. And there was no getting out of it. I ate a lot of Fruit Loops that year.

But God looked down on his ill-paid and over-worked teachers. And he said, “Dude…that is a mess. They need some mercy. Let me see if I have anything up my sleeve.” And he dug into that holy sleeve and blessed us ninth grade teachers with one of the best classes ever created. The class of 2010. I am not exaggerating at all. If it were not for these kids, I think most of the ninth grade teachers would be working at the local trash bag plant right now. For me, as a teacher, my favorite students are rarely the smartest, the most perfect. Forget grades–give me a kid with some personality. And these kids had it. These kids were entertaining, funny, charismatic, full of character, polite, engaging, and fabulously random. This is the year that I would sporadically have a kid come up to me DURING class (you know, when learning is supposed to happen), and ask, “Ms. Jones, can we sing a song we just learned in choir today?”
“Um…sure.”
“Ms. Jones, can I perform this original monologue I wrote for the forensics tournament?”
Sure.”
“Ms. Jones, can I bring cake tomorrow for my birthday?”
“Sure.”
“Ms. Jones, can I–”
“Sure.”

When you work in a large school, you often will never see your students again once they’re gone. That has been one of lamest things ever for me. I come from a small town, taught for years in a small school, and I actually like talking to kids. It’s the wind beneath my flabby triceps. So to get attached to them in class and then never hear from them again is sucky-poo. They always leave at the end of the semester, throwing promises that they’ll return. But they never do.

But Sydney did.

And today she left the sweetest thank-you note ever.  Sydney occasionally stops by in the mornings to draw a funny dog on my board, autograph it, and have a little chat. We tend to talk about comedy. And Saturday Night Live. And actors. And life after graduation. And writing. And how amazing her future is gonna be.
syd3

I got her a graduation card earlier this week that said, “If you don’t stay in touch, I’ll contact Lorne Michaels at SNL and tell him you have the acting chops of George Bush.”
syd2

Sydney says she will never be able to call me by my first name.
syd4
“You will always be Ms. Jones to me. Even when we both start to look like Betty White.” (Sadly, I will be the Bea Arthur to her cute Betty White.)  Actually I can’t think of a single teacher of mine whose name doesn’t start with Mr. or Ms. (A few of them start with things I can’t repeat here.) I even have colleagues who I can’t bring myself to call by their first names.

So as we wind up this school year, I hope you students (no matter where you go to school, even if it’s at home) know how much this kind of thing means to a teacher. This is not the sort of thing we throw away, unlike that Christmas card the superintendent sent signed by his secretary. This is the sort of thing you pull out when half the class failed your test. When you assigned detention all day. When a psycho parent tells you her kid’s string of zeroes is your fault. When you’ve accomplished nothing that week but throwing dirty looks and going to meetings. When you pull through the McDonald’s drive-thru and think, “I could be a fry cook…” Maybe you have someone, a teacher, a fellow employee, a parent, a sibling, a gerbil–someone you could thank today. It cost Sydney three pieces of paper and some time.
And meant the world to one tired teacher.

JEN

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10 comments

10 Comments so far

  1. Ruth May 12th, 2010 6:34 am

    Awesome post. My dad is a teacher (college prof) and I know what it means to him when students go above & beyond to thank him for what his teaching/classes/help meant. It means A LOT! :)

  2. Erin V May 12th, 2010 7:25 am

    It is a blessing to have those students keep in touch, even when they cannot bring themselves to use my first name. :-) I’ve had a few try, and they usually giggle the first time. Two or three times later, it’s back to Mrs. V. Doesn’t bother me, as long as they keep in touch!

  3. vanessa May 12th, 2010 8:43 am

    Hey, Jen! Just wanted to let you know… it’s been three weeks, and I have not received So Over My Head yet!Not to be obnoxious, but have you sent it yet? Sorry, I’m just pschyed about reading it!

  4. ashley May 12th, 2010 4:44 pm

    Yay for you JBJ! That is super fantastic that Sydney took the time to thank you :-) You deserve it!!!

  5. Tracy May 13th, 2010 12:04 am

    Oh how true. I adore getting notes from ‘my’ kids. I got a beautiful note from a Year 5 boy the other day ….

    “You are really nice and very beautiful and you are a really good friend. You are really helpful and I love the way you help us. I like the way you laugh”.

    He made my day!

  6. Rachael May 13th, 2010 4:31 pm

    That is totally awesome! Kudos to Sydney!

    And I’m really excited, your book is on order at the library! Except that picture has an animal-a dog. So do you have two different covers for your book?

  7. Mary May 13th, 2010 5:22 pm

    you must be ike the world’s AWESOMEST and FUNNEST teacher EVER!!! I would LOVE to be in one of your classes! Do you ever teach writing classes or anything like that?!

  8. Nancye Davis May 15th, 2010 4:45 pm

    I know exactly how you feel!!! As a fellow teacher I have a few of those “notes” that mean the world to me. The ones from the heart letting me know that I am appreciated. They are priceless!! Teachers really DO make a difference. Keep up the great work!!

  9. Elizabeth Duncan May 20th, 2010 9:52 am

    I have a high school History teacher who completely changed my life. It’s been about 9 years since I graduated, and we still keep in touch. He came to my wedding. He and his family came to the hospital after my son was born last year. He has answered distressed emails about various major life conflicts over the years. And even still, I can’t call him Adam. He’ll always be Mr. Yeager (or YEA!Grrr as I affectionately dubbed him! =). So it means a lot to us students, too! Teachers like you (and him) are what this world needs!

  10. Sydney Davis Jr. Jr. June 18th, 2010 12:11 am

    Ms. JONES!

    I had no idea this was up here untill my brother told me about it! (why he was researching teen-girl fiction novels… I’ll never know…)

    And also, it made my mother (the teacher) cry real life tears.

    P.S. My pleasure :) Any time. We should do lunch.

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