Ask Rhee Gold | Thank-you card etiquette

Advice for Dance Teachers

Q: Hi Rhee,

This year I started working at a new studio, and was overwhelmed with gifts at Christmas. I spent almost two hours writing thank-you notes, then started to panic about forgetting someone or overlooking a gift, and maybe causing offense. In one small class I received gifts from all students except one, and I felt it would be awkward to give everyone but her a thank-you. I created “Happy New Year” cards that said, “Thanks for making my holidays special” and added that I couldn’t wait to dance with them in 2018. I showed the card to my studio owner and she said it was OK.

Today, a mom (from a different, larger class) gave me a belated Christmas card and gift card. My husband told me that by giving out cards to kids who didn’t buy me anything, I made them feel bad. This had never occurred to me, and now I feel awful. I can’t help but think that a look I got tonight meant that another parent was offended, and now I’m wondering if every absence is because someone was offended.

I have mild anxiety, and I don’t know if I should bother the studio owner with my concerns or not. I don’t like to rock the boat, but I’m not sleeping. I feel like my anxiety always causes me to question myself, and that no matter what choice I make, I torture myself over it. I feel like I made a naive mistake, but I had good intentions. Do you have any words of advice or encouragement? —Katie

A: Dear Katie,

Spend no more time worrying about this. My suggestion is that next time you show your appreciation with a more personal approach: send thank-you notes through snail mail. The children will be thrilled to receive real mail, and since the mail is private, you eliminate any discomfort for students who can’t afford a gift. It’s a win-win. If the studio owner keeps her students’ mailing addresses private, I would write the cards, add the postage, and ask the office to address the envelopes and pop them in the mail.

With that said, please don’t assume that you’re getting dirty looks over the thank-you card situation. Sometimes when we feel we’ve done something wrong we look for signs that confirm our worst fears, but our impressions are only in our heads. (I say this from experience.) Hang in there, and stay focused on being the best mentor, leader, and teacher you can be. From your message, I can tell that you are a caring person who wants to do the best for her students. Keep your head high and dance on. —Rhee