Friends sometimes ask what is the best way to appreciate a teacher. But requiring or encouraging society to thank a teacher is a little like forcing your child to apologize when he or she isn’t ready to say “sorry.” Ideally, as teachers, we would love for our students to understand that our work at school is not to punish them or inflict injury. Most of us truly like our jobs as educators or we would not be willing to work creatively, tirelessly, and enthusiastically each day. But in a dual role as parent and teacher, what I’m actually thinking about, coming off 9 days at home with my 5 and 7 year old, are the teachers of my own children who must be made of 90% patience.
But even in that case, upon returning to school this week after April vacation, one of my ninth grade boys expressed just how “very sad” he was to wake up to his alarm today. When I giggled at his level of drama, I reminded myself gently just how far away from our classrooms many of our older students would rather be. This is a real shame because I’m really good at what I do. My classroom is warm and fuzzy and sometimes filled with the stench of adolescent energy, angst and, sometimes, actual body odor. My walls are filled with cool paintings and bookshelves with amazing books, which move off and on the shelf with regular fluidity. Kids are reading. Kids are writing, and they are speaking. More importantly, they are becoming stronger and better critical thinkers in Room 114. They are lucky to have me, just as I’ve been damn lucky to have worthy teachers and colleagues in my life at every level. But they might not recognize or appreciate this until years down the road. As teachers, we don’t require thank you’s. We don’t have a choice about who sits in our seats, and neither do our students.
In discussing Teacher Appreciation Week with friends or students (which is this week in some spheres and next week in others) I am not fishing for a thank you, although they are thoughtful. Instead, I am fishing for students’ gratitude towards the teachers who had come in years previous to me. Could he or she reflect on any teacher from his past 8 years in school and come up with one positive moment of learning? Maybe the one who taught you to tie your shoes when you refused to learn from your parent? Maybe the one who found every nonfiction book about fishing or bald eagles the school could get its hands on? Maybe the one who let your mom know when you had had a bad day and not because of your behavior? Maybe the one who encouraged your love of math or science or poetry or inventions? It’s nearly impossible for teenagers to truly be thankful or appreciative of the time someone spends with them as it actually happening. Impossible might be too strong of a term. Perhaps, they recognize a good teacher when they have one, but the level of difficulty happens when they have to step outside himself or herself for the moment and imagine, “What can this person possibly teach me that I care about right now in this very second?” This is a deeper challenge, and one which is our responsibility as educators to make clearer for our kiddos in class.
So, I say to you, my students, think about a person who has been your teacher in some way. Now that you are older, are you better able to understand that maybe they knew more about what you needed at 7 or 10 or 16 than you knew yourself? This week I received an awesome handwritten note in the mail from a former student. They actually probably have no idea now that they are in college that it is teacher appreciation week, so timing is just extra special. Her words matter. They mattered in my classroom and they especially matter now that she has moved away from home. She could have sent an email, but she didn’t; she wrote on lined paper, used a paper envelope and addressed that envelope with a proper stamp. Letter writing is becoming a lost art, but she knew that real letters mattered to me and made the extra effort. If you are a parent, write that teacher a note, the one who was extra special to your kid, the one you maybe haven’t seen in ten years.
I write my children’s teachers a poem at the end of the school year, just a little note of gratitude expressing how much the time, patience and effort they spend with our children (whom I know are not always easy) matters to me. One day, it will matter to our children. Please let me be alive to witness it! In my 20th year in education, I am most likely just reaching the half way mark in my career; however, we have years ahead of us to appreciate our children’s teachers and help our kids learn to show gratitude along the way. Thank you teachers, thank you every day for the work you do in and beyond your classrooms. #thankateacher
Thank You LWCCCC for Being Greta’s First Teachers
September 2011-June 2016
Greta came to school, a little bald, blond, blue-eyed Gemini.
She leaves LWCCCC ready for kindergarten- fiercely independent-
Still the bright, chatty fashionista, no doubt- still smiling
and now full of questions and opinions and knowledge.
Her love of helping with important jobs each morning nurtured here among ALL of the teachers who cared for her.
You fostered her passion for crafts, the more glitter the better,fancy costumes, story time and nature walks now forever engrained in her BIG personality.
Here, she learned how to be a big girl;
how to share together with her friends;
how to play nicely and use her words and ask for help.
We remain grateful for your time,
patience, and sense of humor
with and around our own “blond ambition tour.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you
for being her first teachers-
for laying the foundation for a long life of
learning, loving, and laughing.
Thank you, Kindergarten!
Kindergarten carved our little boy’s first taste of public school
into a year of new friends, no naps, and chocolate milks at lunch.
Kindergarten gave to Carver Mrs. Pamplin and Mrs. Manning,
true gifts he has loved from the beginning
With his sweet, little heart and MAN-SIZED head.
“M-I-C, see you real soon! K-E-Y, why?
Because we love you! M-O-U-S-E…”
Not super interested at first in words or letters or sounds,
He’s come so far as a reader this year, jumping leaps and bounds.
The structure helped him focus all of that energy and natural curiosity
And different learning stations, specials, recess and Go Noodle let him wiggle.
Alpha friends, reading buddies, and “being borrowed” from time to time
Helped our little boy grow and kindergarten patience helped him shine.
The year tested boundaries with listening to others’ words and drawing too violently,,
And he learned more about consequences, respect, and the strength of his own words.
He will certainly miss having you both in class each day,
“Sunday, Monday, Happy Days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days”
But you’ve given the tools and strategies he needs to survive first grade and beyond.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for being his teachers,
We will never forget the way you helped him to grow,
and to think, and to speak, and to read, and to listen,
and to investigate, and to add, and to observe.
Wherever he goes in this big, wild world,
He had his start with you in kindergarten.
“These days were ouuurrrr happy days…”
3 thoughts on “#thankateacher From One Teacher to Another: May You Always Feel Appreciated”
Heather, I really enjoyed your post. I think that probably all of us have had teachers that we have grown to appreciate more and more over time. I posted a link to your post on Facebook and will share with others. Full disclosure, I’m particularly interested in this, as I’ve created the Thank You, Teachers Project where people can post thank you letters to their current teachers or those from their past. I thanked two middle school teachers (from almost 50 years ago). I encourage you and others to check this out. As well as the Teaching with Heart, Fire and Poetry website/blog – where teachers can share their reflections on work, life and poetry. I’d be delighted to have a post from you on the blog. Best, Megan Scribner
Of course, I will! Oh my goodness, I can’t believe you are the editor from that book Teaching with Fire–it’s one of my favorites and a true gift from Courage to Teach. I wish I could send a picture of my chalkboard rail (yes, still a chalkboard in my classroom) because I read from it regularly with my students. I have not yet read Teaching with Heart and will need to put that on my summer reading list certainly. Thank you for sharing my post, and I would love to post on the blog. In fact, just last week over vacation, I had breakfast with my own first grade teacher. She was one of the first readers for True North, a novel I published last year. Thank you so much for reaching out! Heather
How fun to make this connection! Many thanks for your kind words about Teaching with Fire — truly music to my ears! That’s great about your having breakfast with your first grade teacher and that she was one of your first readers for True North – what a wonderful story. Perhaps that could be one of your posts for our blog. Looking forward to working with you. Cheers, Megan (And thanks for your donation to the website. I really appreciate it!)