Monday, October 17, 2016

Say Thank You

I remember one day when I was in elementary school, I had forgotten an assignment or my lunch or something very important. As a responsible student, this forgetfulness didn't happen often. I received permission to go to the office and call my mom. Both my parents worked, but I got in touch with my mom and she said she would bring me what I needed. I ended the conversation with this: "Thanks, Mom."

When I hung up the phone the office secretary told me, "It's so nice of you to say thank you. We don't hear that much in this office." I remember this moment because of the shock it created. People don't say thank you to their parents? I was maybe eight years old and my parents taught me to show my gratitude. To this day, I say thank you often. When I am in the drive-thru, when students remember to do something, when I make eye contact with another human being that provided me a service, I say thank you. 

I feel like I need to say thank you to my parents right now for teaching me that interactions with people are not like ATM transactions. When you deal with another human being, showing some gratitude is always appropriate. 

I am given the task each year to make Julius Caesar come alive. It is probably the most boring play I've read by Shakespeare, but I do a good job of making it interesting. We talk about rhetoric and honor and justice. This year I offered them a toga party. Extra credit for dressing up. I brought a bowl full of grapes for each class. We watched the last scene of the Royal Shakespeare Company's newest version of the play (which I highly recommend; it's the least boring version of this play I've seen). We wore togas (well, I wore a toga) and had a class debate about whether or not Brutus was justified in killing Caesar and whether or not all the characters got what they deserved in the end. Awesome. 

As my students left, no one thanked me for the grapes or the party. No one thanked me for making the lesson interesting. In fact, I was battling phones so much, I don't know if anyone even knows really how the play ends. 

As my last class was nearing an end, I had five minutes left. I wanted to ask if they identified Brutus' fatal flaw. While I waited for a response one kid stood up and put his backpack on and remained standing, like he was ready to leave class. I said, "We still have five minutes. Have a seat." The look of disdain on his face was evident. I looked around as everyone else packed up and prepared to leave. I said, "Fine, You're excused." They looked at me dumbfounded and remained seated. I said, "No seriously, get out. You can go. Why are you still sitting? Leave!" One brave soul did, and I walked to my computer and looked busy. I would have sat at my desk, but I don't have one because there isn't enough room in my classroom for a seat for me. I removed it to add three more student desks. 

And still, no one said thank you.

I just need to realize that my students don't actually owe me anything, which is true. A simple thank you just goes so far. 


Lori S O said...

This just makes me sad - I'm sorry Arti. I wonder why any teacher stays in the profession.

JIM OLSEN said...

To those who read this, her mother still makes it a point to tell waiters, cooks and others at restaurants, even fast food establishments. It is a good lesson that seems to have been lost on a lot of people.

Susie said...

Thank you Arti! I'm beginning to think teachers will need teach everything now, including a work ethic, gratitude, and manners. I still believe you make a difference, even if some of your students didn't think it through and recognize they were being given a gift from a wonderful, creative teacher.