Monday, June 29, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

I remember sitting at the kitchen table as a girl in elementary school, grudgingly writing out thank you note after thank you note for birthdays and Christmases. My parents instilled the importance of a thank you note pretty early. I admit; I have never enjoyed writing them. Not because I don't want to say thank you; quite the opposite, actually. I always worry I will forget some detail that was important to me or that I won't express my gratitude as sincerely as I hope. Let's face it; a thank you note can easily sound cliche' and boring. Think back to your wedding thank you notes. I know that mine certainly weren't sent as punctually as I had wished; I needed some time off or else I worried they would all sound exactly the same. I figured out later that it really matters more that the gift was acknowledged than that the thank you note was terribly original or special. But I still try to achieve that in the notes I write, regardless of how punctual (or not) I am in sending them.

I was recently reading an article in one of my parenting magazines in which a mom was stressing to her teenage daughter that she should write a thank you note for a recent interview she had for a summer job. The teenager said, "But Mom, no one does that anymore." And the mom countered, "That's precisely why you should."

But the teenager is right. No one does that anymore. At a graduation party I attended this year, one of the parents so profusely thanked me for writing his son's college recommendation letter every time he saw me that he left me at a literal loss for words. But it was certainly nice to hear. And I started to think: I write dozens of recommendation letters every single year. How often had I received a thank you note?!? I can tell you this: In over a decade of teaching at my current high school, I can count on one hand. I'm not saying that for a sympathetic response; I just find it sort of a sad truth of my chosen profession. But honestly, I doubt it is much different in other work environments.

Peanut had a wonderful experience in kindergarten this year. He was assigned a teacher who quickly understood how his mind and heart work and the best ways to help him to excel. We were so impressed with her! I wanted to thank her in a meaningful way, but how do you express that in one end-of-the-year gift from a six-year-old?!? I thought about what I would find touching as a teacher. And I thought about what Peanut likes to do.

And here is what we did: We bought a photo album with pretty pressed flowers on the cover.

Inside, I wrote:

Dear Mrs. S, We are so grateful for all you did to make Peanut's kindergarten experience so special. Thank you for everything! Love, Peanut's Family

Then, we used a stack of plain index cards and inserted them into the photo slots. On the first one, I wrote:

Peanut wants to thank you in his own words. Thank you for...

Here are some of the pages that followed (in Peanut's own words!):

The last page is a picture of Peanut's teacher with him at their end-of-the-year ice cream social. On the next page, I inserted a gift card to Borders. Because, well...teachers love meaningful mushy stuff. But we also like gift cards. :)

I hoped that this gift would not only express our gratitude to an exceptional teacher but that it would teach Peanut a valuable lesson in saying "thank you." He worked very hard on this project for two nights before dinner, and I think he was surprised when Mrs. S was unable to look at the whole book because she "didn't want to cry so early in the morning" on their last day.

And guess what? Mrs. S sent Peanut a thank you note for his thank you gift. See? Told you she was a keeper.

And now I thank you for indulging me, my kind readers. Every time any of you leaves a comment or chooses to follow my blog and lets me know I am not writing just for myself, I thank you in my head. And now I thank you out loud. Well, in writing at least. Thank you, readers!


Heather from Ontario Canada said...

You're welcome :) What a terrific idea.!!!!! a THANK YOU album. I LOVE it.

Anonymous said...

I am right there with you on the thank you cards. I have been trying to instill that in my girls. Emma has spent the last few evenings filling out thank you cards for her bday.
I love the idea of the thank you album. I will have to try and remember that for this year.
I received my 2nd thank you(since being an ED) this year from a student's family, and I really appreciated the card and gift card. It's always nice to know I helped in some way, especially since I am not in the classroom everyday.


Kelly said...

Thank YOU for posting this! I think it's sad that so few Thank You notes are written these days. I was glad my parents made me write them, and I look forward to passing that skill/thoughtfulness on to Jake. Manners never go out of style.

Kelly said...

Oh, and what I meant to write but forgot, was...

What a wonderful gift you have made for Peanut's teacher! I am sure she was so very touched by your special guy (and his great mom)!

L a u r a said...

Very nice idea! Thank you for sharing.

Gemma said...

As a former teacher, I have to say that that thank-you album will be one of Peanut's teacher's most cherished possessions. What a fabulous idea! I, too, can count on one hand the thank-you notes I received over 33+ years. One of my most favorites was from a student who wanted to buy me a charm for my necklace/bracelet when I retired. She asked me what I would want, and I said, "The letter K," cuz her name was Kasey. I got the gold K, and I will never forget her. Ever.

You are the bomb, d-i-l!!

Kathy B. said...

Oh my Goodness!!! What a FABULOUS idea. Thoughtful, lovely ~ straight from Peanut's heart.

Lisa said...

That is adorable. What a wonderful idea! You have got to be the most thoughtful person I have ever come across in my life - seriously. You always amaze. :-)

Kristin said...

Wow! What a genuinely great idea! I, also, know the importance of thank you letters. (having said that, I really hope I sent you a thank you note for the wonderful baby gift you sent to They just aren't a priority for people anymore. And it is more an acknowledgement of the gift, rather than what's actually said that people care about. Anyway, great post!!!

Nellie said...


As a first grade teacher I think your thank you gift was great. You are very thoughtful and I know Peanut's teacher really appreciated the gift.
I enjoyed your Father's Day post also.