Warm Fuzzy File by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

By meggin@meggin.com
Apr 4th, 2014
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From the time I was a beginning teacher, my father (who was an Episcopal priest) encouraged me to have a “warm fuzzy file.”  This file is a place to gather notes and letters that are positive, encouraging, and acknowledging.  The idea is that these materials are available when you have “cold and prickly days,” which we all do sometimes.
  1. Designate a folder in your desk or in a nearby file cabinet.  Label it “Warm Fuzzies.”
  2. When a parent, student, former student, colleague, or community member sends you a letter, card, note, or other written correspondence that acknowledges your concern, impact, or another way that you made a difference, read it, savor it, and then put it in your “warm fuzzy” file.
  3.  You can be as selective (or as non-discriminating) as you like.  It is your file.  Keep what you want to keep.  Toss what you don’t care to keep.
  4. When you need a reminder (on “cold, prickly days”) or a psychological boost, retrieve your “warm fuzzy” file and read some or all of what you have kept so far.  And anyone who says he/she doesn’t need a psychologicaly boost some days hasn’t been a professor for long…
  5. When you read those notes, letters, or other documents that are in your warm fuzzy file, take as long as you need to.  Soak in the words and sentiments of the person who wrote to you.  Know that you are making a difference.  Remember the event and the person and let that seep into your psyche and your heart.
  6. If you are a professor who writes and submits articles to refereed journals, I encourage you to keep a warm fuzzy file that is just related to your writing.  This one may take awhile to amass, but it is worth having a place for it.  Then, when the notes arrive from those who have read your articles – or the letters from editors and reviewers who thought your work was excellent appear – you have place to put them.  Believe me, you will be glad you have these to read (since you are bound to get some “cold & prickly” comments from reviewers and editors.  Everybody does but it doesn’t make it feel any better.
  7. Although you can keep your warm fuzzy file in a folder or a box – with no order whatsoever – you can also organize it in some way, e.g., 1) letters from students about teaching; 2) comments from administrators; 3) acknowledgements from advisees; and the like.
  8. Having your warm fuzzy file organized in some way allows you to access those special supportive comments when someone is putting together an award application for you.  The personal comments are very helpful to the reviewers of such award applications.
  9. I had never thought about having an organized “warm fuzzy” file until one of my doctoral students (who knew that I kept one because I encourage others to do the same) asked if she could borrow it because she wanted to do something for me.  It turns out that she created an amazing scrapbook of a multitude of these cards, letters, and other pieces of paper.  It’s one of the most treasured gifts I have ever received.
  10. Consider creating an email warm fuzzy file, too.  It’s fine to print out some of what you receive via email, but you may choose to keep a digital file of such.  Just make sure it’s part of your back up!

I appreciate my dad teaching me about the Warm Fuzzy file.  I hope you’ll create one today.

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