A Powerful Gesture

Teach Better TeamBlog, Connect Better


  • Make sure to let people know you are grateful for them.
  • A personalized, handwritten note can go a long way.

There is so much that we have to be grateful for. How often do we let people know that we are grateful for something they have done or just for who they are? It’s one thing to be grateful, but it’s another thing to let someone know that they made a difference in your day or your life. 

I want to talk about one particular way to show gratitude. It’s a bit of a lost art, so when you use it, you will surprise the recipient. The handwritten thank-you note carries much power, especially in education. Let me share a few examples from my own experience and that of my colleagues.

I want to talk about one particular way to show gratitude. It’s a bit of a lost art, so when you use it, you will surprise the recipient. Click To Tweet

Handwritten Thank-You Notes

Here at the BARR Center, where I work, we have conducted approximately 300 in-person trainings over the years with more than 215 schools. An average of 25 people attend each of those trainings. After each training, we ask that the two trainers send handwritten thank-you notes to each and every one of the participants. These are not stock, printed “Thank-you-for-attending-our-training” notes. We believe in relationships—genuine relationships—and we ask that our trainers establish relationships with each participant during their two days together. The handwritten thank you notes reflect that relationship, that personal connection made between trainer and participant during their time together.

Here is an example of a thank you note sent by a trainer:

Thank you very much for attending our BARR Training. We appreciated your engagement and active participation during our two days together. Your long-lasting relationships with students’ families from your experience as the basketball coach will help your BARR team continue to forge strong family partnerships as you move forward with BARR implementation. Thank you for all that you do and we wish you and your students much success!

BARR Trainers

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Focus on Strengths

Another emphasis that we have at the BARR Center is insisting that our teachers know the strengths of their students. We ask that when BARR teacher teams meet to discuss students, they begin the conversation by naming that student’s strengths. We ask that when they interact with students and their families, they operate from the basis of student strengths, not deficits. 

Last Thanksgiving, one of my colleagues attended the holiday dinner with her extended family. Family members began talking about a note the family had received from the school about their 9th grade student. They said that typically when a communication arrived from the school, they cringed. They wondered, “What’s wrong now?”

But this note was different. It was a handwritten thank you note to the family, naming the strengths of the student and thanking the family for supporting that student. They commented on how different it felt to receive such a communication. My colleague learned that the student attended a school in which our BARR model is being implemented. She was grateful that a teacher took the time to connect with the family over their child’s strengths and not over—yet again—what was wrong.

Try a handwritten thank you note. I write them frequently. Don’t send an email. It doesn’t feel the same. When someone takes the time to write a note with their own hands, it feels special. Whether hand-delivered or through the mail, the recipient feels the gratitude, the thank you that is in the message itself. It sets a tone and puts the relationship on a new plane.

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About Angela Jerabek

Angela Jerabek is the founder and executive director of BARR Center. Jerabek developed the BARR model 20 years ago and has expanded it from one school in the Midwest to more than 200 schools throughout the U.S., serving over 150,000 students.

Jerabek has published five books and several op-eds and articles in various publications. Often looked to for her expertise, Jerabek has been featured in USA Today, National Public Radio, and CNBC. In the fall of 2020, she was a co-panelist with John B. King Jr., the 10th United States Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama. Jerabek has presented at the White House at the “Evidence in Education Roundtable” in 2016 as well as at International Education events.

Jerabek was recently awarded the Donald McNeely Center Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.