Writing E-mails to Students Who Have Impressed Me


Yesterday afternoon I was reflecting on a class situation that I wasn't very satisfied about. Two students had gotten into an argument, and it had ended up being unresolved. At the end of class I made a general observation about effective communication and respect, but was really targeting this argument that had happened. I think my intention was apparent. 

Unhappy with how I had handled it, I wrote a follow-up e-mail to the student who seemed to have taken it personally and apologized. This student responded back pretty quickly that everything was okay.

After I wrote that e-mail, I began thinking of students who had been doing impressive things in class--high levels of participation, supporting their peers, asking great and thoughtful questions, doing extra research outside of class, sharing personal stories, or just showing high levels of capability. So I started writing them individualized e-mails. For example,

Hi ________,

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to share that I have noticed how great you are at describing concepts in class. You manage to do so in a way that all of your classmates understand what you are talking about. I particularly liked how you handled the discussion about __________. 

Of course, this was not a made up experience of mine. It was a real experience, and that was my honest impression of the student. Rather than keep this to myself or share it with my wife, I shared it with the student who had made the impression!