One of the most important things I learned from my mentor teacher was the impact showing thanks and appreciation can make. Don't get me wrong. I was not rude or inconsiderate before, it was just that for me, saying thank you and showing appreciation was either pushed aside until some ending point, forgotten, or routine and scripted. Working with my mentor teacher changed this.
I remember the first day of school this year. Most of the teachers were running around like crazy...bringing things into their classroom or putting the finishing touches on the classroom. My mentor teacher? She was rushing around, but in a different way... She was delivering notes and small gifts to our secretaries, specialists, custodial staff, and administrators....I even got a Fairview T-shirt as a gift this week to wear on Friday! You should have seen how happy such a little gesture made them! (By the way, she repeated this before and after breaks and on a few other occasions...the secretary's even got St. Patrick's Day flowers!) After seeing what such a small gesture could do to improve relationships in the school, I chose to replicate this idea by putting together small candy bags for some of the key people we work with for Relay. This never would have even occurred to me before. Say thank you before we even get started? Crazy!
Keep up the good work all year long... A small note goes a LONG way. Another great idea I got from my mentor teacher was to mail notes of encouragement to students all year long. She rotates sending notes to her students so that every child gets a few notes of positive encouragement each year. In the notes she mentions how proud she is of each student for something that has recently occurred (a great spelling test, becoming even more fluent in reading, being a great friend to classmates etc.).
Random Acts of Kindness... Any one of my classmates can tell you that this year was a lot to take in. We worked hard and at times were stretched very thin. Coming to school each day with a positive attitude was both necessary and expected, but my mentor teacher could usually tell whether or not my attitude was genuine. During one particularly busy week she slipped a small note into my bag. It simply said, "You have been working really hard. Take a break and give yourself a chance to relax!" and was attached to a $5 gift card. It wasn't a lot, but completely unexpected and the perfect thing for me at that moment.
In our classroom we have a student who has a chronic illness. He often misses class--sometimes for a week or two at a time. The children in our classroom are aware of his illness and do a great job of welcoming him back each time after he has been gone. This student missed a very special day of class during one of his hospital visits and instead of just sending the fun home, my mentor teacher send all of the supplies for the activity and asked each student to write our missing classmate a short note or picture. I cannot even begin to describe the smile that came to his mom's face when she picked up our class package.
I really started to get the hang of this random acts of kindness thing and it is something I hope to carry out in my classroom and in my personal life. It is a self-improvement type of thing on my part, and I really believe that I will be a better person if I incorporate these random acts into my life.
So here I am again...At the end of the year. This time it is not as a teacher, but as a student. I am leaving a school and a city I love. This past week I have been writing my post-event Relay thank you notes. I am humbled and grateful for how my people have made a significant impact on my life and causes I care about. I only wish I had learned how to show my appreciation sooner!