Thank a teacher

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’d like to use my Friday blog space to ask students and parents to take the time to express that appreciation to a teacher who deserves it.

I’ll admit that I’ve got a soft spot for teachers. My mom spent 30 years teaching high school English, every grade and every level, from AP seniors aiming for the Ivy League to the ESL class for recent immigrants who were learning the language. Nobody worked harder to bring Chaucer and Shakespeare and Twain to life for kids. Those kids are all grown up, many with families of their own. But she’s got memories (and a shoebox full of notes) of those kids who took the time to thank her for caring so much—about them, about English, and about finding ways to bring both together.

Teaching can literally be a thankless profession in that few of those who benefit from the work actually take the time to say thanks. This is normal (there’s a reason why parents have to remind kids to write thank-you notes to Grandma and Grandpa for those birthday presents). And in my entire educational history, I only ever took the time to thank one teacher. That’s part of the teaching gig, and you don’t sign up with the expectation to receive regular praise.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially during Teacher Appreciation Week.

High school counselor Patrick O’Connor captures this sentiment with his usual perfect pitch in this entry, “A Counselor’s Thank You to Teachers.”

“Making the most of college—and learning a trade for that matter—isn’t at all about getting in.  It’s about the absorbing, the becoming, the grappling of new ideas that doesn’t end until the idea is now an honored friend. That state of mind, the acquisition of the habits needed to do that kind of learning, is the essence of teaching.  It is alive and well in the classrooms of the colleagues I eat lunch with.  More important, it is in the hearts, minds, and souls of the students they serve.”

So write a short email. Stop by after class. Bring a card, a gift, or even an old-fashioned apple. Yes, the week is closing now and you don’t have much time, so if you can’t do it today, do it next week. Your thanks won’t be discounted just because it didn’t arrive during the official week to share them.

How and when you do it matters a lot less than just taking the time. And it doesn’t take much time or effort to deliver a thank-you to a teacher who deserves it.