An appreciative word: Thank you.

This is a story of a connection that spans time, continents, and generations.

It started with a glance at my ‘others’ message box on facebook. You know, if you aren’t friends with someone (and yes, my security settings are that way inclined) then if they message you it stays hidden in this ‘other’ box without notification unless you happen to look. There was a very cryptic message in there. I am well versed in the issues raised by @jonathan_worth in this week’s topic of Trust, and a message that seemed personal, but was from someone I didn’t know should ring alarm bells. But this was intriguing, because it had information in it that I hadn’t mentioned or even thought about in at least 20 years. It said:

I came across a copy of “Hope for the Flowers” with your autograph and was wondering if you remembered the book.

The comment was so specific that it had to be written by either someone who knew me, or someone who was extremely curious and picked up the book at a garage sale. At this point I wasn’t sure.

Screen shot 2014-09-30 at 08.26.49What is the book? It is a story of a pair of caterpillars who are basically running in the rat race of life, and they end up climbing on the hog-pile (caterpillar-pile) to get higher into the sky… and this involves stepping on others, losing any sense of vision, camaraderie, and openness to learning and becoming. In the end one of the caterpillars decides that he’s had enough and goes off. I don’t really remember the details, but I am sure it wasn’t easy to leave the pile and the routine, and it did involve courage and even loneliness, but then (you guessed it) he turns into a beautiful butterfly and is able to soar – and see above that rat race and actually be free.

So what the heck was my name doing in the book??? It was something my family used to give all of my teachers as presents – you know instead of a box of chocolates – and I would sometimes write something in the cover.


I was curiouser and curiouser. WHO WAS THIS??

I replied with something truthful, yet tentative:

…of course I do. glad it made it into someone else’s hands. That would have been from about 1983. We used to give it to my school teachers as presents…

It turns out I did write something and I was neither expecting nor ready for what came next:

Well I wanted you to know I have kept it all these years. I have shared the story with many others including my own kids. It meant a lot to me when I first received it. Still does. Trust all is well by you. I suspect you are still inspiring those lucky enough to know you.

…FYI, I kept the book because of the kind words you wrote. As perhaps the first written words of appreciation it has made an impression on me. Among other things, you taught me the value of showing appreciation. I contacted you to extend a belated thank you.


Yes I was sitting down. Yes I had tears on my face. No I am not good at receiving praise, and am guilty of preparing myself for people’s comments – armoured for criticism. This time I was completely unguarded, and it humbled me beyond words.

With more written exchange, I found out that this was from one of the people who came in to school to help with a club, and of course I remembered who it was. This particular teacher (yes, even though he didn’t run a class, he was my teacher) made an impact on me – coming to school to work with the individuals in the speech team, and in my case it was reading poetry. As a visitor to the school, he came without the judgements associated with how I did in other classes, or what friends circles I did or did not have, and he treated me as a valid person with my own potential. He wasn’t gregarious, and he didn’t lavish compliments, but acknowledged and encouraged. For me that was so liberating.

I remember writing in that book back in 1990. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I remember that I meant it – and wanted to really convey something, as much as an awkward teenager can, of what it meant to be allowed to be me.

So why am I sharing this soppy sentimental story?

I have been a part of Connected Courses over the past month and have started to meet people involved in different aspects of education across the world, and we are being encouraged to build networks, and part of that is commenting. There has been encouragement from facilitators to get talking to each other, and I see the same encouragement mirrored within courses like ds106 and #phonar where there are healthy communities of conversation and connection.

For many people this is daunting in practice – for example sometimes I feel that I don’t have the expertise to comment on these well established, flash-bang people’s writing – that it might show me as thick, or inexperienced… or I just wonder if I have anything of value to say.

The truth is we don’t know the impact of our comments, now or in the future. I certainly would not have thought that my comments could possibly have meaning for my teacher, but they did.

…As perhaps the first written words of appreciation it has made an impression on me. Among other things, you taught me the value of showing appreciation…

So to that teacher- you taught me to glimpse myself, to not hide, and to be free to speak. Who would have thought that of the many teachers, the one who helped at the after school club would have an impact so great. In my life speaking to people through teaching is a large part of what I do, and few people are actually trained in how to do this. I am very thankful that you were and are my teacher.

and for old times sake… I recorded one of the poems you helped me learn.

The Box, by Kendrew Lascelles

I still have them all.




  1. Pingback: Yes I Can: Self-efficacy -

  2. Alan Levine

    An appreciation for the appreciation story; the kind I like to collect It speaks to, in light of the #ccourses trust unit, how there are risks worth taking in being a connector. If you were vigilant to the letter, you would have never responded. Rewards come from taking those risks, and you certainly exercised a proper amount of caution.

    There is another lesson; drop the “I’m not worthy to comment” stuff; what if your former teacher had done the same? That line of stature does not exist here: each expert you think is above you is another fraught human likely battling their own questions of self worth. Don’t hesitate to comment connect if you have something to say.

    1. Post

      Thank you Alan- (please collect away!) you are so right- following the trust, that risk is so important. What do we have to lose?? It can seem very scary, but we all have so much to gain, and as soon as we (I!) get over initial insecurities and get connecting and encouraging each other the better. 🙂

  3. Simon Ensor

    What a beautiful example of what to me is connected teaching/learning. Being present, sharing presents, presence.

    This is a marvellous present of presence.
    This is why I want to say thank you to you and to all of you who have touched me.
    This is an example of what changes lives: nothing much from a generous stranger.


    1. Post
  4. Maha Bali

    Oh wow, i had goosebumps and wet eyes reading this. Thanks so much for sharing this touching story.

    I think we should do a #dailyconnect of saying thank you to someone (maybe a weekly event, where once it is to a teacher, once to a friend, etc) – i usually do that in my follow fridays on twitter actually 🙂 maybe we can make #tut = thank u Tuedays 🙂

    1. Post
  5. David A. Hale

    That’s a touching story, and like Kevin, I was moved by your observation that we don’t know the impact we have on others. Fortunately, it seems to be the positive effects that really matter and last.

    I also enjoyed your reading of “The Box”, which I don’t recall hearing before. I went Googling to find out more about the poem and the poet. It seems that it was actually written in the early 1970s by Kendrew Lascelles, recited on TV by a few people, and included on a John Denver album. The misattribution to Lascelles Abercrombie is widespread.,_Prayers_%26_Promises

    1. Post

      Thanks for that about the author- in my notebook (from the days of yore) I had it in handwriting as ‘Andrew Lascelles’ (not quite right, but closer) and I didn’t trust my own writing when I saw it online as the other. I’ll correct it 🙂

  6. Kevin Hodgson

    “The truth is we don’t know the impact of our comments, now or in the future.” — amen, sister, and yet, if we want to be building a system of trust and balance, it seems like engaging in conversations, even as comments, is important. We can write into the void, but when someone answers the beacon, it’s as if your words have connected in a powerful way. The way your post did this morning with me.
    Thanks for writing

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.