We love that you want to thank us. Really. But Teacher Appreciation Week is a really bad time to do so.
First of all, it highlights the students whose families have less income. Especially in the younger grades, this is divisive. One of my best “teacher appreciation” gifts was a small constructed tube of Saran Wrap containing the marshmallow pieces in my student’s morning Lucky Charms breakfast from the school cafeteria. Other favorites include notes or emails from parents telling me that they or their children appreciate me. This is so much more than enough.
When I taught in an affluent district, I asked my room parents not to send out any info about Teacher Appreciation Week. I never wanted any of my students to feel that they had to produce some material token to show their respect or gratitude. For the most part, this worked but in an affluent district, parents know about the school’s weekly or daily themes and I would have to downplay it in the classroom while writing notes of extreme gratitude to the students and families who participated without provocation.
For real, though, what teachers want in order to feel appreciated costs nothing. Come to school board meetings and speak up for less testing and more support personnel. For more counselors and fewer suspensions. Volunteer in your child’s school to read to struggling students, to tutor in math, to supervise lunch. Whatever your work schedule or skill set allows. And if you, like so many of us, are not available during school hours, you can still help! Consider supervising your child’s morning bus stop. Get to know the kids in your neighborhood and their parents. Empower yourself to speak up when you see excellence or insufficiency. Even if you cannot tell the parents, you can tell us and we can monitor the situation (not a long-term solution but the more eyes on a potential problem, the better the potential outcome for the children).
So if you want to show me appreciation this year, please let me know that your child is happy. That you are pleased with their progress in my care. That you understand that my job is difficult and that I take it very seriously, even though I strive not to put that stress on your student.
And know, above all else, that your student’s well-being, their confidence, and their self-esteem will always be more important to me than a grade.