Almost 17 years ago, I walked through the doorway of an elementary school classroom transforming myself, almost magically, from student to teacher. Since that time I have taught hundreds of students (possibly thousands if you count students I taught while collaborating with other classroom teachers) and I can tell you from first-hand experience one explicit truth about teachers.
They really do love their students.
Every single day of the school year, teachers put aside their own personal obligations to spend 6-8 hours (or more!) with your children or grandchildren. They help children learn not only reading, writing and arithmetic, but so many other things as well. How to be problem solvers. How to be kind. How to be patient. How to deal with failure. How to interact with others. How to... the list goes on and on. Teachers are often surrogate parents, wiping the tears from a skinned knee, reminding children they are special, helping them to hone their skills as productive members of our society. Teachers go out of their way to celebrate your child's successes whether it's staying late at school to watch the chorus concert or attending your child's extra-curricular activities (like our son's kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Verlander, shown in the photograph above.) A teacher's role in your child's life is multi-faceted like angles cut in a diamond, reflecting brightness, warmth, and value. From preschool teachers to dance teachers, to sports coaches and college professors, teachers truly are the backbone of our culture.
On March 7, 1980, Congress declared this day as National Teacher Day, a celebration to honor teachers for their lasting contributions in childrens' lives. While this recognition was granted for only that year, the National Education Association continued to observe National Teacher Day on the first Tuesday in May. In 1985, the National PTA established Teacher Appreciation Week as the first full week in May. Since that time we have been sharing our appreciation for teachers nationwide.
How can you shower teachers with kindness during this week? There are thousands of ideas on the internet; my favorite place to find inspiration is on Pinterest. Simply type 'Teacher Appreciation' in the search box and you will find an endless array of ideas from free and simple to expensive and complex. [EDITORS NOTE: The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation pinned three graphics that include fun ideas you can do to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. There are ideas for parents, ideas for students and even ideas for teachers.] Sometimes viewing such an extensive list can be exhausting and overwhelming, so I thought I would share some ideas that have warmed my heart as a teacher.
- Bring breakfast or lunch for your teacher. Teachers rarely get a 'real' lunch break. Their lesson plan may list 30 minutes set aside for lunch, but by the time they escort your children to the cafeteria and help them with any needs (you'd be surprised how many milk cartons kindergarten teachers have to open), they are lucky if they have 15-20 minutes to quickly eat their own meal before it's time to pick up their class. Most teachers aren't allowed to leave the building for their lunch break, so they either have to pack a lunch, eat a school lunch, or bring something that can be cooked in a microwave. If you bring breakfast or lunch for your teacher, you will surely bring a smile to his or her face!
- Plan daily surprises from the class. Many years I had a parent who volunteered to be a room mom, organizing fun events throughout the year. During Teacher Appreciation Week, the students had a suggested list of things they could do each day to show their appreciation:
- Bring a flower - All flowers were placed in a vase to make a beautiful bouquet I could enjoy all week long.
- Bring a healthy/snack food - These were placed in a basket so I could enjoy a treat while my students had their snack time.
- Send in a school supply - For younger grades especially, we were always running out of pencils and glue sticks this time of year, not to mention other essentials like tissues, tape, staples and white board markers. One year a parent sent me an electric pencil sharpener and I almost cried when I opened it! Don't forget other school supplies that make teachers happy like post-it notes, stickers, and colorful Sharpie markers, too.
- Pats on the back - Have students trace their hands on construction paper (or provide a pre-cut hand shape) and have students write how their teacher has helped them this year. Place hands on the teacher's door as a surprise so everyone walking down the hall can see how much your teacher is appreciated!
- Gift card tree - Ask families to send in gift cards in various denominations to restaurants, coffee or smoothie shops, bookstores, Target, Amazon, or even iTunes and tape gift cards to a piece of poster board in the shape of a tree (or place gift cards on wood sticks in a flower pot with beans to hold the sticks in place). Teacher LOVE gift cards! Each year I spent hundreds of dollars on my students from room decorations to additional school supplies, holiday gifts, stickers, etc. and I always appreciated this gesture of love!
- Recess fun - Each student brings in something for either the playground (jump rope, kickball, frisbee) or indoor recess (board game, card game, puzzle, etc.) You'd be surprised how much recess equipment is lost, broken, or worn out by the end of the year!
- Send a gift related to your teacher's hobbies. My son's kindergarten teacher loved her Pandora bracelet, so we all sent in a little bit of money to the room mom so the class could give her a new charm for her bracelet. She was so surprised! One year my students gave me a cooking themed basket filled with kitchen utensils, cookbooks, and new bowls because they knew I loved to cook fun meals for my family. This not only showed their appreciation, but their attention to my interests, too!
Perhaps the most meaningful gifts I have received through all my years of teaching were handwritten notes and cards from students and parents. It may seem silly, but I have an actual 'Smile File' where I keep these treasures close at hand.
When I've had a particularly challenging day, I will sometimes take out my Smile File and reread the letters and notes, reminding me of the impact I have had, and continue to have, on my students' lives. No matter how many years pass by, these heartfelt sentiments always make me smile and rejuvenate my joy!
As we begin Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5 - 9), think of ways you can show your child's teacher how important they are to you and your child's life. If your child is school-aged, send an email to the school principal, highlighting several reasons why your child's teacher is so wonderful. Copy the teacher on the email so they can also read your kind sentiments. You'd be surprised how many people you can bless when you take the time to shower teachers with kindness!