Heartfelt And
Unexpected

Not sure what to give for Teacher Appreciation Week? Last week when the flyers came home for teacher appreciation week, I dutifully filled out my form with days I could help out and sent in some money. It then occurred to me that our schools teacher appreciation events haven't changed in at least eight years. At this point, the events are well-organized and easy to orchestrate. How much of it is something that has become expected - on both sides - and how much true and deep appreciation goes on? How can I make sure my kids teachers know that I truly appreciate them, and I'm not just contributing to the formal, traditional effort because I am expected to do so? And how many parents depend on this effort alone to express their appreciation?

Thank You

When I think about the teachers my kids have had over the last several years, there are some awesome moments. Even when I thought the teacher was less than perfect for my child, I recognized the hard work that went into running a classroom and being there every day for a diverse group of students. Every teacher deserves recognition. How that's done best will vary by teacher, school, and situation - and I don't think it should ever be standard or "rote." Basically, don't wait for the formal "Teacher Appreciation Week" to do some appreciating.

Say it!

The simplest way to show teacher appreciation is to tell the teacher how you feel. Just a couple minutes jotting a note on a nice piece of paper makes such a difference. And you don't have to wait for teacher appreciation week to do it! Whenever you feel that something has gone well, say so!

For example, if your child has particularly enjoyed a specific science unit, a note that says, "Mary loved the unit on magnets. She has come home excited and eager to show us what she has learned. Thank you for your effort in the science unit!"

I've tried to send notes like this every now and again throughout the year. Just like such notes would certainly boost my day, I know that positive reinforcement boosts the kids' teacher's days.

Show it!

Beyond the lovely letters and notes, you can show your appreciation for teachers throughout the year in a variety of ways. From volunteering to making sure the teacher has all the supplies they need to bringing some fresh flowers on a random Tuesday morning, there are so many ways to show appreciation.

For some teachers, the best way to show appreciation is to make sure the class has what they need, hence school supplies and volunteering. Other teachers like things more personal. If you can afford it, the occasional gift card for services are often received enthusiastically. For some very special teachers, I've knit lace scarves - and years later, when that teacher and I see each other and she's wearing the scarf? Well, the appreciation is there all over again.

Go up the chain

One of my favorite ways to recognize the efforts of my kids teachers is to let the school administration know what a good experience we have had. It's easy to be vocal when things aren't going well, but just as important to be vocal when things are going well.

With the advent of electronic communication, it's easier than ever to dash off an email to the principal and/or superintendent of your child's school and say, "Ms. Jones is wonderful. She has encouraged my child in these ways, and I really think she's a gem." Following up such emails with an actual letter is even better, but if an email is all you can do in your busy day, so be it. What I think would be awesome would be for school PTAs to add kudos forms to their websites to further facilitate this kind of positive feedback for all the staff.

Teacher appreciation is more than a single event, or a single week of events. Sure that week is great and shouldn't be tossed out the window completely, but showing appreciation is more than that. With a few small, unexpected and heartfelt efforts throughout the year, your kids teachers will know you really do appreciate what they do - and you will be building a stronger relationship with your kids' schools in the process.

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