Friday, September 11, 2015

The Pre-Transplanted Dad: Magic Words

I will have SO many stories to share in my next blog entry-- but until then, here are some thoughts from March of 2011.  Please enjoy them and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Magic Words

They are called "magic words," but nothing really amazing or surprising happens when one says "please" or "thank you."  And it isn't exactly a magical moment when I hear students use these niceties, though I do appreciate it when a kid expresses gratitude upon receiving an assignment.  In some instances, the expression could very well be ironic.  Imagine it's near the end of 6th hour... a Friday-- do kids really mean "thank you" when a teacher chooses this moment to introduce a project or essay?  Suddenly, the weekend that was to be free from homework has become a Saturday and/or Sunday of hard labor.  Yet some students still say "thanks" as I hand out the sheets of paper that detail their weekend's demise.  Those who say nothing are probably better off for it.  If a student is considering saying a phrase ending in "you" in a case like this, "thank" probably isn't the first choice for what comes before it.  Maybe in those instances it is some form of magic that prevents a teenager's brain from allowing his or her mouth to utter something regrettable.

Actual situations like the one described above are rare, to be sure, and perhaps the "thanks" is as much a Pavlovian response as it is anything else.  But the other day, two students who had approached me with questions on an essay helped each other in the process of getting clarification from me.  I was struck by how, before returning to their respective desks, each one took the time to thank the other.  It was the sort of exchange that should be commonplace, and it made me long for the good ol' "citizenship grade" like the ones my elementary school teachers had at their disposal.  I personally don't know of any public high schools that have a mark for rating a student's civility, but an e-mail to each of the students' parents has a more personal touch anyway.  Since the unfortunate pattern of teacher/parent communication tends to begin when something is going wrong in the classroom rather than going right, it is always a pleasure to be on the sending end (and I'm sure on the receiving end) of an e-mail that says, "Your child is kind and polite.  In fact, earlier today..."

Though it will be a few years before I will have an opportunity to open such an e-mail, I have enjoyed witnessing firsthand my son's recent outburst of politeness.  Although he still often needs to be reminded of the existence of "please" so that his requests don't sound like demands, he has mastered the art of the "thank you."  He recently won his first-ever prize from a claw machine game, and he was quick to express his gratitude.  "Thank you veddy much box," he said, tightly squeezing his new purple teddy bear.  Last weekend, several minutes after we returned from buying groceries, he rushed over to me as though he had forgotten something.  He looked up at me, wrapped his arms around my legs, and said, "Thank you Daddy drive me blue car home."  In that moment, it was easy to see why they are called "magic words."

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