Teacher Appreciation Week kicked off on Monday! The week is marked by lots of discounts from various vendors, suggestions for fun gifts for teachers, and even an array of media attention for the most important profession of them all, that of educator!
Teachers, particularly elementary teachers, are familiar with a wide variety of teacher appreciation presents, from mugs to clothes, to pretty flowers and plants. And these days, any and all kind gestures toward teachers are appreciated. If a child says to a teacher, “Thank you for teaching me, I got you this stick with a ribbon on it,” mostly all the teacher hears is that first part.
You can order flowers, fancy tchotches and the like. But the very best gift you can give this week costs practically nothing.
It’s a note. Just a personal note.
Teachers will tell you that the only gifts they ever save are these. They had saved these, and many other notes from parents for years and years. Plants die. Gift cards are used up. But you can hold on to those personal notes for the rest of your career.
Many teachers have that collection. A file folder, or a big envelope, or just a stack stored in a special drawer with a rubber band. My own notes are folded away in a pretty box. I take them out when I need inspiration to push forward in education. Notes like these give me the motivation to continue to work harder for kids.
It’s hard to convey what a lift these provide to frontline teachers, librarians, even the school janitor. And yes, even school leaders, too. When you are in a rough patch, you find yourself getting them out and rereading them as a reminder of a time when you did some good work.
You don’t need to go online or drive to the stores. It just takes a piece of paper and some heartfelt words. An email gets the job done, too. If you want to give the gift that keeps on giving, give a note. The teacher will get it out and read it again for years and years, drawing encouragement from it every single time. That note could be the reason why she keeps pushing and why a student who needs her advocacy, her connection, her instruction, gets the best of her.
It is never too late to send that note. You don’t always appreciate a certain teacher until years after you’ve left her classroom. Send a note of appreciation then; I guarantee that she will be delighted to get it.
Sincerity is key.
This week teachers will be offered all sorts of gifts and discounts and social media posts from people who spend the other 51 weeks of the year forgetting all the things that teachers really need to thrive: crafting policy that offer collegial interactions, strong opportunity for professional learning and growth, adequate resources, and school-wide structures to support student learning.
If you want to go a step further, you can express your appreciation of and support for teachers to your state legislators. If you think teachers should be paid more, tell somebody who can do something about it. If you live in a state that is busy passing laws that hurt public education, call your elected representative and tell them to support public schools and the people who work in them—and not just with nice words. Find out what teachers in your school need, then ask school board members to get it for them. The next time you hear someone claim that schools are failing, and teachers stink, speak up. Skip Target and do these things 52 weeks a year.
But during May, a heartfelt note would be perfect.