The Flourishing Academic

A blog for teacher-scholars published by the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving often elicits great emotions of joy and happiness: Christmas is a month away, we celebrate with family and friends, and we recess from the daily routine of academia.  It is truly a wonderful time of year.

As a high school teacher at this time of year, I would invite my students to take a scrap piece of paper and write a note to a teacher (other than myself) for something they were thankful for.  Was it something they learned?  Was it extra time the teacher spent with them going over a complex idea?  Was it the outreach another teacher offered when they learned of an illness or struggle in the family?  My students were invited to keep the notes anonymous, as I didn’t want it to be seen as an opportunity to “brown-nose,” but an act of humility and honesty.

What I learned from the experience was that my students were truly thankful for their learning and the teachers who taught them.  It’s easy to see our students as individuals who are aloof, busy, or uninterested, but when asked to reflect on what it is they enjoyed or absorbed from a particular subject, the opposite was demonstrated.  My students were engaged and had a general curiosity about the world they lived in.

At the end of the day, before we recessed for the holiday, I quietly passed the notes into the faculty mailboxes.  While many of the teachers never knew who it was who solicited these notes, those who found out appreciated that their efforts were recognized and applauded by the one-hundred or so freshmen and sophomores I had during a given year.

It’s easy to give thanks like this at a high school with sixty or so faculty, but bringing this to a university might prove more difficult.  Here’s my proposal: use a Twitter backchannel and the hashtags (#) #DUQEduThanks (for Duquesne folks) and #EduThanks (for all others).

  1. Invite your students via email to use the hashtag (#DUQEduThanks / #EduThanks) to give thanks to a professor, other than yourself, on campus.  We’re inviting you to ask your students to write something between now and the end of exams, to celebrate both holiday seasons!Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 4.01.09 PM
  2. Encourage them to recognize someone on campus who has helped them through the semester thus far.
  3. If you’d like to see what students are writing, complete a search for the hashtag which will produce a list of ‘thank yous’ for the students who chose to participate.  Our blog will offer a TweetCloud on Monday, December 1 and again on Monday, December 15.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving recess with family and friends!

– The Flourishing Academic

Author: Michael J. McGravey

Mike received his B.A. in Theology from Gannon University, Erie, PA in 2005. After graduating, he taught Religious Studies at St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia. While in Philly, Mike earned his Master's in Theology and Religious Studies from Villanova University in 2008. In 2009, he came to Duquesne as a graduate student in Theology and also served as a teaching assistant in the department until the spring of 2013. During his time as a teaching assistant, Mike taught the core course, "Faith and Reason." Mike's theological work has included talks on Augustine of Hippo, Reconciliation in Northern Ireland, the Principle of Subsidiarity and Pius XII, and Catholic Social Teaching and Healthcare. Additionally, he has co-presented on technology in the classroom ("Sandwich Your Student Learning with Tech") at the 2014 Mylan Pharmacy School Retreat (Oglebay Resort, Wheeling, WV). Mike continues work on his dissertation, a project focused on postmodern ecclesiology and Continental Philosophy, while balancing life as a father of an active boy and an inquisitive young daughter.

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