Gratitude and Viral Marketing by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
For me, I remember it starting with Nicole Silver – a student in my Genocide class about 10 years ago. I know she wasn’t the first student to thank me on her way out the door after class, but somehow her thanks resonated as a bit more sincere – even though it happened literally every day as we wrapped up another lesson.
As the year progressed – and she kept thanking me – a wonderful ritual began to evolve as another student, and then another and another would thank me on the way out. Pretty soon it was a veritable cacophony of thanks heading out in to the hallway.
I began to ask my colleagues about whether or not they were experiencing the same things, and it turned out they were. I don’t know if it really was Nicole who started it, but for the most part, students at Nobles are not only grateful for the opportunities they have here but are increasingly – and appropriately – expressing that gratitude with thanks after class, practice or rehearsal.
In a community like ours, small gestures – "thanks" to a teacher as one walks out of class; "hello" to someone you don’t really know in the hallway; clapping with some enthusiasm for a mundane announcement in Assembly – collectively build our culture.
Last summer our daughter worked at a social media and marketing company and I learned a bit about viral marketing – using social media to spread a message or advertise a product. As the fall has gone forward at Nobles it is increasingly apparent to me that the small gestures of "thanks" and "hello" really "go viral" and create an important collective connectivity and school culture. I’ve also realized how fragile this kind of culture can be and how quickly it could turn negative (and there has been lots in the media about things like bullying on Facebook which could have enormous implications for a community like ours).
This is the time of year when we pause and give thanks in a variety of ways. But it is also the time in the term when students have a pretty significant amount of work to do. What I hope doesn’t get lost – and what I hope parents can reinforce at home – is that even with the depth and breadth of our school responsibilities it is critically important that we take care of each other and our community with those most valuable small gestures of a kind word, a quick note, a smile and gratitude for the opportunities we all have as part of this community.