A Facebook friend of mine who is a law teacher recently posted a status update expressing understandable pleasure over a couple of dozen end-of-semester thank-you notes, emails, and other tokens of gratitude from students.
The post got me musing about what you might call the culture of expressed gratitude in law schools. I've been in this business full-time since 1994. Over the years I have noticed that some faculty members seem to attract expressions of gratitude from students, and others don't. You see the telltale signs lying about: the little envelopes stuffed into doorframes or slipped partly under doors, the little packages and Hallmark envelopes left in faculty mailboxes. And there are a couple of things that have struck me about this. First, as I say, there are clear patterns -- if you pay attention, you can see that there are some who attract concrete expressions of gratitude, and others who don't. Second, the faculty member's reputation for excellence in teaching correlates at best imperfectly with the pattern. Some who appear to receive lots of student love are reputed to be great teachers, but many reputedly great teachers don't ever seem to have the little-package-stuffed mailbox or the telltale envelope stuffed in the doorframe.
This is an interesting thing. Is there something in the student-faculty relationship that helps explain the patterns?
I hasten to add that I'm musing about this out of a genuine sense of curiosity, not out of resentment. Though I've never been among those who receive the cards and emails and little gifts, I know that the students in my classes have enjoyed them and felt that they've learned a lot.