Yesterday, I carried out my very favorite activity of every semester. I sent an individual email to each student who made an A in my class this semester just to congratulate them. As teachers, we push our students unmercifully to succeed. We are after them constantly to do the work necessary to make an A. We push and prod them to give us an excellent effort. We complain when they disappoint us.
Therefore, I think those students who take up our challenge and do the work we ask of them deserve our acknowledgement. I believe they should get more than an anonymous A on a grade report. So, before I turn my grades in to the school, I send each A student an email so they know that I did notice.
In my classes this semester, 14 percent of the students in my introductory class (a relatively low number for me) made an A and 35 percent of the students in my intermediate class (an all-time high) made an A. I sent each of these students an email something like the following:
To: Mr. X
I am very pleased to let you know that I have finished grading the final exams in Accounting 201 (Financial Accounting) and you earned the grade of A for this semester. Only 14 percent of the students in this course managed to earn an A and you were one of those. Congratulations!!! Your work for the semester was outstanding. I am pleased for you and believe that you should be very proud of yourself. Although a lot of people have taken Financial Accounting with me over the past 40 years, very few of them have been able to say that they made an A. You now belong to a relatively exclusive club. To do this well in Financial Accounting requires a lot of hard work and (hopefully) some deep thought. Your work was excellent and it was, very much, a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with you. I really hope you will carry this success with you into the spring semester. Nothing pleases me more than to hear that my former students are knocking the top off of their subsequent courses. You can do it – you are very bright and hard working. So, make it happen.
As I am sure you know, for about the last 12-15 years, I have asked every student who has made an A in one of my courses to write a short essay (a paragraph or two will be sufficient) to explain how you managed to make that grade when so many (equally bright folks) failed to do consistently excellent work this semester. I hope you will write this up and forward that essay to me in the next few days. Think about it a little bit. What should those other students have done differently? As you know, I will share your thoughts with the students for next semester in the hopes that they can replicate your success. What can you tell a rising 201 student to explain to them what I want? I am always frustrated that some students simply never catch on to what I am looking for. I honestly believe that everyone can make an A in 201 if they will do the work in the proper fashion. I need for you to explain what that proper fashion is. All I ask is that you be totally honest. The grade is already in – so, tell them the truth.
Have a great holiday. Enjoy your vacation – you have earned it. If I can ever be of assistance, please just let me know.