I wrote a post last month about a letter of gratitude I received from a student I taught more than fifteen years ago. He apologized for not sending the note earlier, but I appreciated the delay. The impact of his gratitude accumulated interest over time; the longer removed the note was from when I taught him, the more his words demonstrated a truly lasting effect of our time together.
I had a similar reaction to a recent thank-you gift from a student I taught last year. The photo above shows a journal my former student had made for me. I appreciate that she had it made in pink. (My photo appears purple on my display, but that's a lighting snafu.) I love that there's a pun in the word "novel" -- my original thoughts and my plans for fictional books. As she handed me a thank-you note and this notebook, she apologized for not thanking me earlier.
Nearly moved to tears by the thoughtfulness of her gift, I couldn't express in the moment that I saw the few months she took to come up with this gift as a plus not a minus. Rather than mechanically write me a card in the spring, she mulled over what would make me happiest. The care she took to give me just the right gift was the same level of care she took in her work for my class, always contemplating assignments rather than racing toward mindless completion.
I predict that someday you'll know about this woman and about the student I highlighted in last week's post. My journal-giving scholar dives fully into everything she does, and she does a ton. I can't foresee what she'll become famous for–writing, acting, directing, or something else–but I forecast that the combination of her attention to the world and her creative outlook will make her stand out in whatever field she selects.
By now, you've probably figured out that the notebook in the photo is a wonderful, thoughtful, generous reminder of the great experience I had teaching her, but it's not the only gift I'm talking about in the title of the post.
Having a student who listens with an open mind and heart, who finds ways to become curious about every text, who engages with every aspect of my course is an amazing gift. I've been lucky to teach at a top-notch school where many students fit this description, but it's not all of them. We have our share of "point farmers" and children who consider everything we offer steps that will take them up and out of here. In this odd year of often having to do on Zoom what I've tried to do in person for years, I feel even more acutely the fulfillment of getting to work with people who search for the joy of getting to work with me.
What gifts have you enjoyed recently? Please share your thoughts in the comments.