The Value of Mailing Encouraging Notes to Students
Early on in my career as a teacher, I learned that a friend and colleague of mine who was also a mentor would occasionally write notes of encouragement to hand out to his high school social studies students who were having difficulty. I couldn’t help but be curious, so I decided to send a handwritten message to one of my sixth-through-eighth-grade pupils via means of the postal service.
Everything I wrote was directed toward him, from my impressions of his personality to the reasons I enjoyed working with him as a student to a challenge I posed to him for the upcoming academic year. That one note has developed into a number of others. My goal was to always write one note for each of the students I taught, and I was successful in achieving that goal in the majority of the years. As a teacher in a middle school, I made it a point to set aside some time each week to write approximately five greeting cards. By the end of the school year, I had written and delivered more than one hundred unique, handwritten messages to the seventh-graders in my class. Now that I teach elementary school, I have less things to write, but I still make it a point to send a note to each of my students during the first eight weeks of the school year.
The incredible and quite humbling response to these letters has been received thus far. A handful of students each year take the time to respond with their own invaluable remarks. Some students affix the sticky notes to the walls of their dorm rooms, while others choose to place them on the cover of their binders. According to the student’s mother, one former pupil brought the message from when she was seven years old with her to college and hung it on the wall of her dorm room over her desk.
FEELING IMPORTANT IS IMPORTANT
An essential fact that has been shown by these notes is that students have a strong need to feel like they are known. Students understand that time was specifically set aside for them and that they are valuable enough to be known. They will be able to take the handwritten card with them as a tangible reminder that they are loved and that someone knows who they are.
My students’ level of engagement in the classroom has significantly improved as a direct result of their belief that they are worthwhile. They are motivated to perform well because they believe their instructor is on their side. Additionally, now that the positive aspects about them have been acknowledged, they are empowered to lean into the behaviours and characteristics that they perceive in themselves. This is because they have been made aware of the great things about themselves.
Note passed on verbally from instructor to pupil in handwriting
With permission from John Tiersma
One of the handwritten notes that John Tiersma distributes to everyone of his students in the form of a letter that they get in the mail.
I’ve also realised that there have been certain shifts in the way I think. The procedure altered the way I think about and interact with my students. My determination to maintain a pleasant attitude toward them began on the very first day. In preparation for my upcoming communication with my family, I try to find “the good” in the people I interact with. Even while I’m looking for stuff, I double check to make sure that the things I say are accurate, authentic, and specific.
There are moments when I wonder if the students or their parents take greater pleasure in the notes. Parents have expressed their gratitude to me over the phone, and they were in tears. But it makes sense. It must bring you a great deal of satisfaction when other people acknowledge what you already know to be true about your child, which is that they are unique. The note also provides the parent with a window into how I’m choosing to view their child, letting them know that in my eyes, their child is not simply another student in the classroom.
ANOTHER WAY TO CONNECT
After the success I had with the handwritten notes, I decided to look into additional ways to engage with my students, such as having genuine dialogues with them. I make it a point to look for opportunities to talk with pupils about things that aren’t related to education each and every day. One more effective strategy for developing meaningful relationships with students and boosting their level of involvement is to make it a daily aim to have at least one meaningful conversation with a different student.
It may seem impossible to find time for one-on-one interactions, particularly for teachers working in middle and high schools; nonetheless, it is not impossible to do so. Utilizing class time is good because your pupils are available and sitting directly in front of you in this setting. You might find it helpful to save the first or last two minutes of your class time for a conversation with one of your students individually. A dedication of this nature will demonstrate to your students how highly you regard them as unique individuals.
Do not let the fact that you do not have time during your class session prevent you from participating. Use your imagination. While you’re drinking your morning coffee in the corridor, make sure to say hello to each student as they enter the building. Inquire about their performance at the swim meet or inquire about their level of anxiety regarding their part in the show. Find a student to converse with as you make your way to the faculty lounge during the break or lunch period. Always remember to address the person by name, engage them with thought-provoking questions, and proceed with purpose in every interaction.
Do you want to begin with the concept of the handwritten note? Start small. Take a look at the list of students in your class, select someone who seems to be struggling, and then write them a note of encouragement. Put it in the mail, and after a few days, check your mailbox. The expression on their face will let you know whether or not they have it presently.
Instead, why not start with interactions that are more intentional one on one? Choose a partner who is not someone you are really familiar with. Find out what they are passionate about, the activities they enjoy doing, and what you have in common with them. Focus entirely on serving their needs.
Students are aware when their instructors go above and above because they care about them. They are able to perceive it both visually and physically. Handwritten notes and intentional conversations are just a few of the tools that teachers can use to show students that they see them, they hear them, they know them, and they care about them. Today, give one of these suggestions a shot. Your relationship with your students will be all the better for it.