Saying “Thank You”

Teaching is dynamic. You experience all that the human race has to offer, in all its glory and messiness.

Some people say “thank you” at the end of every lesson and some don’t. Some people seem always to be grateful as they are studying and some act as if taking a lesson is more like buying a purse at a store — maybe you like it, but maybe the one at that other store would be better. Some people even resent the process, but, thankfully, they don’t last long. If they come looking to be told how great they are — they don’t want to learn, they want a fan club!

Over time, as I have been teaching for over four decades, I am often asked for various kinds of help, over and above what happens in a lesson.  Sometimes I even get these requests from total strangers because they need help from “an expert” and they found me on the web. In every case, this is a request for my time and for some kind of favor. If it is at all possible, I agree, as I want to support others being successful, and this is something that I, and others with my level of life experience, also do, without financial re-imbursement. For a tenured professor at a university, who is expected to participate in a number of “outside activities” such as attending meeting and events, or guide students’ projects, as part of their position as a professor, such activity is part of their job. For a private practice teacher such as myself, there are no such expectations. In both cases, however, direct appreciation and gratitude on the part of the person receiving the assistance is appropriate as a response.

It’s interesting, then, to note, how many people who ask for help don’t bother to say “thank you” in a way that is commensurate with what they have asked for, or perhaps, in any manner at all.

I use myself here just as an example, but I am writing on behalf of my colleagues who I know have done the same as I have. I write to make those who have asked or expect to ask their teacher (or any expert) for help, assistance or time, to please be really conscious of their requests.

If I write a letter of recommendation for you and then must send it to four different schools, all of them with a different submission process; or if you interview me for your dissertation for over an hour, maybe more than once; or if you ask me to read something you have written; or you ask me to give you a lesson at a time when I don’t normally teach and must re-arranged my life to see you; or if you want me to support you in some other way; then take the time to be grateful in kind. Don’t just post a note on Facebook and expect me to see that you indeed, got your doctorate — send me a very nice card with a personal note in the US mail. Don’t just assume that I had nothing else to do with my time — send me flowers, or at least offer to take me out to a very nice lunch. (I might still decline, but the thought matters.) If I spent a significant amount of time doing something that I really didn’t have to do but did because I care about you, be conscious about that and at least try to do something nice for your teacher (whomever it may be). No, you don’t have to pay us, but there are other ways to show gratitude.

No one is entitled to someone else’s TIME, as that is all that we have. That said, however, the busier someone is, the more likely it is that they will make the time to do something else if at all possible. That’s been proven. But when you ask your mentor, professor, advisor or teacher for a favor, please remember that you may not be the only person asking for help, you might be the fifth person that week asking and that what you want impedes the other person’s ability to do something else for someone else. Of course, I could say no, and that would solve the problem, but it’s not the request that is at issue, it’s the response to the help after it has been given.

I sadly have to say that I have been occasionally astounded at the absolute obliviousness that accompanies, “Please, help me”, when, after I have done so, it comes with only an email (if that) of “thanks”.

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