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The Power of the Thank You Note

Posted by on in School Culture
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From Carina, a former student who is now a supply chain analyst for a global company

I received two very special emails over the weekend. The first came from a student I had ten years ago and just landed her first full-time job as a teacher. The second was from a student who was in a building where I was an administrator. He wrote me to say he's enjoying high school and that he was thankful for his experience. Both were equally cool, and both are equally appreciated in ways they will never imagine.

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From Kirsten, one of the best ELA teachers I have ever hired

This may sound corny, but I have kept various  thank-you notes over the years. It's hard to explain how such a few words on paper or typed mean.

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From various students from 2006 when they were in 9th grade

It started in East Brunswick, where students got one card to send a thank you to a teacher. You got about two sentences. Students got to do them for grades 5, 7, 9, and 12. I got 41 my first year (I taught 162 kids that year). I was so proud of them, I hung them in my classroom. I repeated the practice every year that I was at CJHS. I ran out of wall space to hang them. I wanted my students to see them; it was motivation to them. They liked pointing to them and me telling them a story about the student... or finding their siblings. Students even came back and pointed their cards out.

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From Sarah, currently a merchandising assistant for a Fortune 500 company

Thank yous can come in a myriad of forms; post-it notes, formal letters from parents, even a coloring page from a book. Those little things matter most.

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From a former student who just began her first year as an elementary teacher

When I made the switch to administration, I thought these days were sure;y going to be over. I was waiting for the barrage of angry emails, phone calls, and disagreements.  To my surprise, it was not as daily as I expected... AND... when the tough came along, thank you notes came along with it.

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From my former superintendent

As I rose up the ranks, I learned very quickly that the phrase "bigger chair, bigger problems" is the truth.  As a Superintendent, problems that I didn't think were even possible came across my desk.  Whether it was student placement, staff placement, or just about anything you would expect from a Hollywood script, it came (it still does) across my desk. 

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From a former parent at LAC school thanking me for moving her 2nd-grade student "onward" :)

While parent thank-you cards are fantastic, the shout-outs from students are equally as fantastic, especially from those students who took a misstep on occasion.

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From a former student who needed to focus on spelling instead of "doing something bad" 

Thank you notes from students who genuinely appreciate change and the direction you are leading a school district take the cake.  People love saying "we want change" - but when it affects them, they don't want it.  While social media and public meetings allow theatrics and folks who don't like any change an avenue to vent, folks don't see (or want to see) the other side.  Little notes like the one below are all the fire you need to keeping moving in the right direction.

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From an excited student who was eager for the changes and what will happen next

Of course, teacher support during change is always appreciated too.  Sometimes, you just have to be yourself and give everything to those in need. I have found that when I come into new places, many have not been exposed to what's truly out there. FullSizeRender 4

As I am rolling out a series of changing in my new district, things are almost lockstep compared t other districts when it comes to folks freaking out over change.  You can be a district of 100 or 10000 -- change is hard.  While the opposition and theatrics by various stakeholders has been high, the thank you notes and positivity has still been flowing in. It is for you, and the students of who I am here to serve, that I keep pushing forward for what is best for today's students. My passion and fire in the belly will always be there, but it is the occasional thank you notes and keep me focused.  So... THANK YOU!

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Jay Eitner is a proud product of the New Jersey public schools. A graduate from Union High School in 1997, Jay attended The American University in Washington DC with a BA in interdisciplinary studies. He began his teaching career in Roselle, NJ teaching a variety of subjects including social studies, computers, and digital literacy. Known for being ‘outside of the box’ and for strong technology infusion, Eitner strived to make a learning environment that was student centered, data driven, and technology infused. Jay received his Masters Degree from Kean University in 2004 and was hired to teach 8th grade social studies in the nationally recognized East Brunswick Public Schools. During his time in East Brunswick, Eitner has written & received over $140,000 in grants for his students. Grants ranged from podcasting equipment to creating a fully-interactive gold-rush experience, where students dug for gold during their westward expansion unit. Jay obtained his supervisor, principal, and school administrator certificates from the NJPSA NJ-EXCEL program in 2009. Administratively, Eitner has served as a middle school Assistant Principal in the Washington Township Schools , a K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District, and a Superintendent of the Lower Alloways Creek School District. Jay currently serves as a Superintendent of Schools for the Waterford Township School District. He has presented a series of workshops on digital leadership, technology infusion, and student achievement. Recent awards include the 2015 national Educators Voice Award in the category of Superintendent, the White House MakerSpace distinction, and named to the national Academy of Arts & Sciences as a 2016 Educator To Watch.

Jay currently resides in Mount Laurel, New Jersey and is a proud Dad of twin girls and his puppy Lola.

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Guest Friday, 15 February 2019