By Bethany Neubauer — Many of us learn at an early age when it is customary to send our thanks via formal correspondence.
Emily Post’s Etiquette, for example, indicates that thank you notes be written for all gifts not opened in the presence of the sender. My grandmother was always a stickler for this rule during my childhood. Now that I am older, I find myself teaching students how to pen thoughtful notes after interviews. In both situations, formal thank you notes are expected as a part of good manners.
Thus for me, it is the unanticipated thank you note that is quite often the most memorable. This has become particularly true as a new Career Counselor at Marquette.
Over the course of the past semester I have met with numerous students. Many have visited with me just once or twice. I presume they received what they needed and have continued on with their busy lives as students. This is of course what students do after all. Nevertheless, I find myself wondering how they are doing. Did they land the interview for the internship they were dreaming of? How did their first job interview go? Were they accepted to graduate school or the post-graduate volunteer program they applied to?
I am curious. I want to know if my work is making a difference, yet the reality is most of the time these questions go unanswered. I cannot always know what will be of the seeds that I have sown, and I have had to learn to be okay with this ambiguity.
Not all hope is lost, though. From time to time, I receive a thank you card or email update from a student – sometimes months later – thanking me for my assistance and providing me with an update. Social graces do not require these students to write and that is precisely what makes these notes so meaningful. They are tokens of thoughtfulness that (forgive me for being cheesy) speak to my heart. I actually keep all of such correspondence filed away in a folder labeled “Pick Me Up”. When I’ve lost perspective or need to be reminded that the work I am doing is important, I turn here.
This all forces me to reflect on my own experiences as a student. There have been countless times when I have mentally given thanks to a former educator or mentor but rarely have I written to express my thanks directly.
Mr. White my sixth grade teacher needs to know that I recently presented to a crowd of 100 plus people without batting an eye, a task that wouldn’t have been possible had he not required me to confront my fear of public speaking.
Ms. Vondruska and Mr. Opbroek need to know that their “three ring binder method” kept me organized beyond their high school science classes through undergrad and now graduate school over a decade later.
Although our roles are different, we are all educators and I imagine these teachers appreciate such thanks as much as I do. Time to break out the pen and paper!
This summer, we’ll be taking time here on the blog to give thanks to some of the great teachers and counselors who’ve made a difference in our lives. Watch for the posts under the moniker “Celebrating the Profession.” And if you’d like the opportunity to thank someone in the field of teaching or counseling who’s made a difference in YOUR LIFE, email Lori Fredrich at lori.fredrich(at)marquette.edu. We’d love to feature your post!