Teachers do not do what they do for the glory…or the money…or the respect…or the appreciation. They do it because they want to make a difference in the lives of kids. That said, a little appreciation goes a long way to making teachers feel valued. Who doesn’t like to feel valued? Teacher appreciation week typically falls just after testing week, which is arguably the most stressful week of the year. They receive trinkets of all kinds, such as I love my teacher coffee cups, candy, flowers, gift cards to Starbucks, socks, lotions, and numerous other small tokens. Sometimes the community comes together to provide treats in the front office or luncheons, all designed to encourage teachers in their desire to prepare the next generation.
While the week-long celebration is nice, it is not all these things that make teachers feel appreciated; it is the heart behind them. If you want to know what makes the biggest impact on lifting teachers up, I am going to tell you. It is your words of affirmation. They are more treasured than all the money spent on items which are relegated to a closet, shelf, cupboard, digested or passed along to the local nursing home. The words are the gifts that make their way into filing cabinets to be pulled out on difficult days, to remind teachers of why they do what they do. Here are five ways to use your words to inspire a teacher.
- An Email– This alternative to snail mail is instant encouragement. You don’t have to wait for Teacher Appreciation Week either. Any time you see your child grow you can jot it down and hit the send button.
- A handwritten note– These notes never lose their appeal. They are classic, and when a parent sends one in on no particular occasion it is even more special. My “Why I Teach” file is full of handwritten notes from both parents and students. I pull them out on rough days and they take me down memory lane and make me smile.
- A homemade card– When students make a homemade card it is one of the cutest things ever. When those cards have made up poems or notes it is even more special. No need to correct the spelling either, the mistakes are part of the heartfelt charm.
- A text message– These are instant. They can be just a quick word of appreciation, or a report on something good your child has said or done. I love when parents send me a quick text telling me about a former student’s accomplishment because it makes me feel as if something I did made a difference. Just don’t blow up their phone every day…it’s OCCASIONAL use makes texting a great gift. (If teachers won’t give you their cell phone number, don’t be offended, just use the other five gifts on this list instead.)
- A letter– You may ask how this is different from a handwritten note…a letter isn’t written to the teacher. (though it can be) It is written to the principal about the teacher. Most teachers would LOVE it if the principal got a letter saying they are doing something RIGHT. We are all familiar with the sinking feeling of the principal getting a complaint. Letter writing that expresses appreciation for a specific teacher turns that around and builds up positivity. You could also write a letter to the paper if there is a particularly exceptional teacher. Around here being in the paper for something good is a wonderful thing.
- A tag on a gift– I certainly do not what to imply teachers don’t want gifts. 🙂 If you have it in your heart to buy a gift, have at it. Just don’t forget to add some encouraging words on the tag to lift the teacher up.
Affirming words are something teachers are good at giving to students, and they tend to give out of their own abundance. By affirming teachers, they have even more words to pour into your kids. It’s a win-win.