• juliaphelan

Showing Gratitude Matters

Educators do a lot of things behind the scenes and out of the limelight to help support, encourage, and mentor their students. Just yesterday, for instance, my husband had three back-to-back Zoom calls with students all of whom had contacted him to get some advice and guidance on graduate programs, careers, or other post-college opportunities. There’s a wicked malady going round our house, but despite being home sick, Jay Phelan gladly spent much of the afternoon listening to his students’ concerns and questions, providing thoughts and insights from his own experiences, and counseling them on how to best navigate their next steps. As many educators do, he spends a huge amount of time on meetings like these, as well as emails with students, and of course letters of recommendation. When you teach classes of over 300 students two or three times a year, you can imagine that the number of requests and amount of communication about these things is high.

To be fair, he would never complain or grumble about this. He sees it as an integral part of his job and he enjoys getting to know and helping his students. Yes, he teaches them biology, but he also serves a valuable role in helping guide, motivate, and educate students on aspects of their future.

I was speaking to another educator friend earlier and she mentioned that she too spent considerable time writing recommendation letters for students applying to college. And with only a couple of exceptions, this year she had yet to receive a thank-you from most of them, and some of the students also hadn’t thought it necessary to let her know where they had eventually decided to go. She was really surprised and disappointed by the lack of gratitude as well as the lack of information from these students and went on to describe it as “beyond rude”. I agree.

And so I guess this post is really about the importance of remembering those who help you along the way. The importance of following up and letting the person who helped you in your decision-making know what you ended up deciding. And the importance of a thank you. A thank you to someone for spending their time crafting a personal, authentic, recommendation for you. One which hopefully will help you get into the school of your dreams, or get the job you’ve always wanted.

Surely they deserve that?

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