Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I've Decided to Say "Thank you"


I wonder what would happen if we ended each class with the statement, “Thank you for sharing your learning with me today.”

I went to a class last night at my gym, and it was packed as usual...a mix of sweaty people of all ages and walks of life coming together to make sweat stew while jamming to 90s pop. As usual, I loved every cheesy minute of it, and at the end of the class, I had a realization. Our instructor said “thank you” like he does every week at the end of class, and for the first time, I had more than appreciation for this act. I thought about all the classes I attend, from Yoga Sundays to Cardio Kickboxing Thursdays, and it suddenly occurred to me that all of them have this in common. At the end of every class, the instructor says “thank you” and we as students all say “thank you” in return.

Suddenly, I became fixated on understanding more about this expression of mutual gratitude. It is definitely ingrained in the gym culture, and I believe it results from the teacher-student exchange formula unique to the setting. The life of the class is dependent on the choice of participants. We only choose to attend if we feel confident about our potential to succeed, comfortable and accepted if we have to slightly alter the class to suit our abilities/needs, appreciated, and fantastic when we leave...all this besides willingly entering it to work our tails off! It started me thinking, what if schools worked like this? What if students voluntarily selected classes to attend during the week based on learning goals? What if our classes were cancelled if not well-attended?

Now, I realize that this is probably not possible, at least not something I can wrap my head around fully right now, but the exchange concept is transferable. For as little control students actually have over what classes they take, they certainly can exert a lot of control over how they attend them. They make choices each day. Will they gift us with their attention, effort, meaningful contribution, respect, gratitude? I think it really depends on what we are giving them. I honestly struggle, like most teachers, to bring high levels of engagement and relevance to my students on a daily basis. Am I sometimes boring? Yes. Do my students sometime leave with less than I’d like them to? Yes. But, I made a decision yesterday after that class to never let them leave without knowing that I am grateful for whatever they could give that day. Not just because I think that it will ultimately lead to more gifts from them (because I do) but also because despite all the frustrations and noise of each day, I am grateful. What a wonderful job I have, and I every day this year, I’m just going to make sure my kids know that.

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