Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Experiment in Thanks

I know it's a little bit after Thanksgiving but I wanted to share a little thing I did during my first week of Winter Break this year. For those of you who don't know, I'm the Director (and instructor of record) for the WSU Pep Bands. It's program that I was somehow was able to grow from 19 students to 70 in a little over a year. It's been amazing to believe in myself and really go after something like this even though I knew it was only a two year position since I'm a GTA. However, in the growth I realized I don't know each member as well as I want to know them.

This lead to the following experiment:
Craft a form letter saying "thank you" for all they do for the bands, but instead of mass emailing it, I tweaked it and sent a personalized email to each individual. It took me around 10 hours over the course of two days to get it done, but I wanted to do it right. I was hoping I would hear back, but I had no clue the response would be so great.

I had shy students, who I don't think have ever said a word to me, write and tell me how it's the best part of college for them. Some offered some suggestions for games. I had future teachers tell me I was helping prepare them for being music educators. I even was called inspiring! Who knew? All this because I took the time to think about each of them, on a personal level, and give them a way to respond to me.

Here's a few samples so that I can look back on one of the tougher days and realize being a music educator and conductor really is the greatest thing in the world for me.

Mr. Freesen -
I want to thank you for being such a great leader, and a role model for me.  Someone who can take charge of students, put them in a group and make them one of the best groups at Wright State. 

Thank you for showing the example of leadership that I will try my best to do the same.


Thanks Mr. Freesen, this means a lot to me. I don't know if this is lame or awkward, but I have actually been inspired by your enthusiasm for teaching, your excitement, and your skills and methods in teaching. I am trying my best, and I am glad you see that I am doing so.

Being a part of the Raider Pep Band has been one of the best experiences of college. I only wish I would have joined sooner. 

Thanks Mr. Freesen, if anything I should be thanking you for an opportunity like this to be able to play in such an excellent band. Compared to my high schools pep band program this one gives me the whole experience. I doubt that I will ever leave the group. Thanks again  

My dedication to the Raider Pep Band has helped a lot having a director who cares about the program as well. I have watched this band mature into something we should all be proud of.

I'm certain that I will do something like this again. It was so much more valuable than those bubble sheet evaluations or any principals discussion after watching a lesson. More importantly, it's helped me to try to embody those things my students are looking for in me because now I am certain that they are watching.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This is a great experiment! I did something similar with my select choir when I covered a sabbatical - I wrote out a personal holiday card for all 33 kids. It took a while, but it was so worth it to see their faces when they read their personal messages! They later told me that it meant a lot to have a teacher do that for them. I'm so glad they responded positively to your email!

Definitely keep those responses - I have cards and pictures and letters in a folder that I break out from time to time. It's a wonderful reminder that what we do makes a difference in their lives. =)