On Friday, some middle school teachers received handmade notes of appreciation from former students. We receive the notes each year--someone is organizing the gesture through our high school.
It struck me as I read mine--and after a colleague read several of his aloud--that our former students appreciated how we treated them more than what we taught them.
Note after note referred to memories of joy. They remembered laughter and silliness. They noted moments of independence--in my case, an appreciation of time to read self-selected texts in comfortable spaces.
Currently, I am reading Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith's "Reading Unbound" which makes a strong case for creating the conditions for joy through reading.
This comes on the heels of reading Harste and Leland's "On Getting Lost, Finding One's Direction, and Teacher Research" (http://thee-quest.wikispaces.com/file/view/on+getting+lost+copy.pdf) which reminds us how little we allow for student input when creating curriculum or designing the conditions of our classrooms.
Perhaps these notes of appreciation are more than thank you.
Perhaps these notes of appreciation are tangible evidence of what sticks with students and what we should do more of.