Sometimes you just feel like doing something nice.
In my former position, I used to send “good luck” e-mails full of “pharmacovibes” to my students before big tests and during exam week, or congratulate them on big events and countdown to clerkships or graduation with them. I would post messages or Bitstrips on Facebook. It let them know I knew they had things going on other than just my course. It let them know I care.
In my current position, I no longer have a particular captive audience. I don’t have some number of students assigned to me in any fashion. Still, I felt the need to reach out. I had an idea. I would get my colleagues to help me. We would all write positive messages on post-it notes and put them all over the building for the students to read and find as they went through exam week. They could keep ones they liked. I had a vision of walls with hundreds of messages.
Well, that didn’t work out the way I had hoped.
I did get a few notes from several colleagues…not the volume I was hoping for, but they were supportive of my effort, for the most part. The fire code, on the other hand, was not so supportive. Policy indicated that one could not hang things without permission. It would be a fire hazard of epic proportion, to be letting anyone who wanted to hang stuff everywhere. This is not unreasonable, and makes perfect sense, but I had not considered it when I had my brilliant idea.
I would not be daunted – I would spread some positivity – somehow.
I could decorate my door, as long as I didn’t cover more than 40% of it. Here was the result:
The note, entitled “SPARKS,” says “Please help yourself to a spark. Take one for a friend. Leave a new one if you’d like.” There were around 40 different quotes and sayings. Some had instructions: “Take a deep breath. Smile. Take one more. EXCELLENT!” Some had questions: “What are you thankful for today?” Some had messages from characters: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. ~A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh.” Some were song quotes: “One little spark, of inspiration, is at the heart, of all creation… ~The Sherman Brothers.”
I don’t get much traffic on the hall where my office is, but the students who came down the hall would stop and read, sometimes take one, sometimes discuss them with each other, sometimes talk to me, which I loved. I heard that it was a great idea, “Thank you for this; I really needed it,” that it was such a sweet thing to do, and other positive comments. It felt wonderful. I have been leaving them on the door overnight. Each morning, more are missing, and I replace them. This morning, someone left a new one! This is particularly exciting to me since I had not left any mechanism to make leaving one an easy task (I have since fixed that), and these students don’t know me at all.
Yes, the scientist in me wants to study the phenomenon. I want data. I want to know how they felt before they read it. How they felt right after it. How they felt about the exam they took after getting one. Whether or not they took one for a friend. Perhaps I will ponder this more, but for now, I will just continue to let the sparks fly.