Okay, I post a blog entry like this about every six months but I think it is important enough to be redundant. If you ask your students to leap tall buildings in a single bound and they manage to do it, I think you owe it to them to acknowledge what they have accomplished. Simply putting an anonymous A on a grade report doesn't seem to properly recognize those students who have done truly outstanding work.
Every semester, when I finish my grading and I sit down and write this note, I am amazed by how good it makes me feel. I had several truly outstanding students this semester and I wanted them to know that I did notice. I did recognize that they worked incredibly hard and learned an amazed amount. I noticed and I wanted them to know that I noticed.
Dear Mr./Ms. XX,
I just wanted to let you know that I have finished grading the final examination and computing course averages. Only six students in my two Accounting 201 classes earned the overall grade of A for the semester and you were one of those six. Congratulations!! I am very pleased for you. It was a very difficult class (and a tough final exam) but your work was really outstanding. You very much deserved the A grade. I had 47 students in Accounting 201 this semester but only 13 percent managed to earn an A. I really believe that every student in these two classes was capable of making that grade but it did take a consistently strong effort throughout the semester and you accomplished that. Good for you! I’m very pleased. You should be proud of yourself. You managed to get the grade. Many came close but you earned it with your excellent work.
As you might know, I would like for you to do me a favor. I always want more of my students to shoot for the A and make it. Frequently, though, they seem mystified by the challenge. They are never really sure what I want from them. Too often, students take an entire semester simply trying to understand what I want them to do. What does it take to be great? I will have another Accounting 201 class in the spring. I’d like for you to tell those students how you managed to earn your A when so many others did not. What did you do that set your work apart? I would very much appreciate your writing me a paragraph or two (as soon as you can) on the topic – how I made an A in Professor Hoyle’s class. What was your secret? What worked for you? What information can you pass along to the next group of students that will help them do better? I really want more than 13 percent of my students in the spring to make an A and you can help. I'll pass along your advice and, hopefully, it will make a big difference.
I’d like your paragraph as soon as possible. There are only two rules: take it serious and be totally honest. Beyond that, what else could I want?
Again, congratulations!!! You did the work and you did it well. I enjoyed having the opportunity of working with you and I very much appreciate your excellent effort. I hope to work with you again at some point in the future.