42 Give Thanks . . . and Prime the Pump

A photo of James Vick
Figure 42.1: James Vick

James Vick

The last item on the student card described earlier, the name of a teacher who has been a valuable influence (see Connections), offers an opportunity to solidify the relationship with a student while reaching out to dedicated, effective teachers in our vast network of high schools in Texas and in the world beyond. Again, it is the pervasive technology at our fingertips that brings this connection within reach.

The student values the contribution the teacher has made during an important time of growth and development.

With the name of the teacher and high school already in hand, a quick web search will usually produce a mailing address. Then, working from a thoughtfully prepared model, a letter can be individually crafted that tells how the teacher was singled out for his influence and support during the student’s precollege years. It has been my experience that the letter has multiple positive consequences. Although it is not directly from the student, it does convey a message that is too infrequently expressed – that the student values the contribution the teacher has made during an important time of growth and development. For the teacher, the letter often comes at the end of a semester when fatigue may be raising doubts about whether all the hard work is appreciated. The letter also has the benefit of surprise, and it establishes a link between the high school and the university.

Of course this project is not entirely altruistic. In fact, I make it clear in the letter that we thrive on the quality of our students and that we hope to see more well-prepared prospects coming to our campus in the future.

A photo of UT El Paso campus with overlayed text reading, "Q: If students are customers, and if the customer is always right, then what's the point of attempting to educate them? A: —"
Figure 42.2: UT El Paso
A photo of Michael Starbird
Figure 42.3: Michael Starbird

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