October typically marks the end of the back-to-school honeymoon in our home, and this year, the transition has been easier than ever. My daughter Laura is a freshman in college this year, and my daughter Nina is a high school sophomore. Both girls are enjoying their classes and thoroughly appreciating their teachers, and I can’t tell you the satisfaction this brings to our entire family.
Each day, one of them has a new story to share about something they’re learning, something they’re discovering about themselves as learners, or something their teachers have done that they deeply appreciate. My children are older, and they certainly aren’t clamoring for my up close and personal involvement in their schooling, but a huge part of me wishes I could follow them around to all of their classes. I’d love to be able to thank their terrific teachers in person each day because I know from experience that this is a rare occurrence.
I’m wondering what you do to support the terrific teachers who serve your family so well. These are the best ideas I’ve gathered over the years. Some are my own, and in fact, some of my kids’ former teachers may recognize them. A few of these things were inspired by my friends and by the kindness of my colleagues too, though. If you have an idea to share, I hope that you’ll jump into the comments. This is certainly a list that’s worth building on.
1 – Encourage your children to express their gratitude. Many children are grateful for their teachers and have no problem expressing their appreciation at home. When they do, suggest they take a moment to thank the teachers they love the very next time they see them. They don’t need to wait for the holidays or teacher appreciation week or the end of the year to arrive. They don’t need to buy gifts or write long thank you notes. A simple thank you at the end of class will do. Letting teachers know exactly why they’re appreciated is always nice too.
2 – Drop an email to the teacher, and copy the building administrator. Again, this doesn’t take much time or effort, but the rewards are often lasting. Take a few minutes to send a note of thanks, and be sure to add specifics. Often, teachers don’t realize the difference they’re making. Most tend to focus on the problems they’re working hard to solve, including the ones that their students present them with. Show them how that hard work is paying off, and make sure that their administrators are aware of what you’re noticing too.
3 – Make a donation. You don’t have to give money, but ask the teachers that you appreciate if they have a wish list. Some are active on Donors Choose. Others have needs you know nothing about, and your help might help them help kids even more than they already do. Donate books, resources, supplies, or tools. Give of your talent or time. Gather a bit of company if you can, too. There are likely other parents who’d love to help you out.
4 – Volunteer. If you’re able to drop into the classroom, teachers are often eager for parent support. Offer to help in other ways if you’re booked during school hours, though. Take charge of the bulletin boards, offer to cover books or care for the classroom library, keep track of permission slips, or help out with field trips. Let teachers know how much time you have available to help and when you are typically free each week. Invite them to call on you as needed.
5 – Put out a fire. Sometimes, even the most terrific teachers become targets. If you’re in the company of kids or parents who unfairly criticize or even mock hard working teachers who act with best of intentions, intervene. Let others know that you aren’t comfortable with the line of conversation, speak to the teacher’s strengths, and make an effort to steer the conversation in a different direction.
6 – Nominate them. There are a variety of ways to nominate terrific teachers for special recognition. Beyond awards, encourage teachers to share their expertise at professional conferences, to speak to parent groups that you respect, and join leadership committees that would benefit from their contributions. Be sure to inquire about their interest and availability first, but let them know how eager you are to elevate them. Great teachers should be positioned in ways that increase their influence. Help them accomplish this in any way that you’re able.
7 – Send an invitation. Include these teachers in special celebrations for your children. Make sure they get an invitation to the graduation party, and if they’re able to attend, give them a place of honor at your table. Encourage your child to give a short speech that shines a bright light on the difference this person has made. Send them home with a special keepsake. It takes a village. Make them a part of yours.
8 – Come back to visit. It’s hard letting terrific teachers go. I know this from experience, as I have a daughter who promptly burst into tears the minute she got off the bus on every single last day of elementary school. Make sure that your children return to visit the teachers they love. Make sure that you do too. Those teachers are missing your family as much as you miss them, you know.
9 – Dedicate a space. Truly exceptional teachers deserve to have special spaces dedicated to them. If you know someone who should be honored this way, begin working with school leaders and other interested parents to make this happen.
10 – Frame a photo. When you take photos of your children with the teachers they love most, frame one and give it to the teacher. Encourage your children to add thoughtful messages in the margins or on the back, too.
Of course, it’s easy to express your gratitude by giving gifts or tucking certificates for massages into thoughtfully worded thank you notes. I don’t think any teacher would turn that kind of support away! At the end of the day though, it’s about knowing that our efforts mattered somehow. It’s about realizing that something we did was of service to our students and truly appreciated by their parents.
I hope you’ll take some time to support the terrific teachers in your kids’ lives this week. Please come back and share your good deeds when you do, because they’re sure to inspire others.
A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.
A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.