How to Really Thank a Teacher (According to Teachers)
If you have children and work outside the home, then you know you owe teachers a debt of gratitude. These dedicated professionals choose to spend their time with dozens of kids every day — not just taking care of them, but also preparing them to become informed, thoughtful, and well-behaved members of their communities. As anyone who’s ever wrangled even a handful of kids at a time knows, that’s exhausting and too often underappreciated work. But do you know how to really thank a teacher?
Today is National Teacher Day, and this is also Teacher Appreciation Week. To mark these important occasions, here are some ideas about what makes hardworking educators feel valued — straight from teachers themselves.
Take the Time to Tell Teachers How They’ve Helped
Last year, PBS asked thousands of teachers, “What’s the best gift of appreciation you’ve ever received?” The response may not surprise you:
The teachers who wrote in detailed the gift-cards and tokens they had been given over the years, but far more common were proudly-shared accounts of memorable letters of gratitude and appreciation from students and parents.
Material gifts are almost always welcome, but most teachers aren’t in it for the money or treats. They teach because the work has a larger meaning. But since students move on, educators often don’t see the fruits of their labors. So many of us have stories about teachers who’ve helped. When parents and students take the time to acknowledge teachers’ work, it makes a huge positive difference.
One teacher told PBS:
The best gift I ever received was a note. Many years ago when I was still [teaching] first grade, I had a child that was retained and the parents requested that he remain with me the following year. At the end of our 2nd year together, Mom, Dad, and my student all wrote me notes thanking me for all the work I had done with him over those 2 years. It touched my heart so much to know that they cared so deeply about our time together that they took the time to handwrite a letter!
An in-person visit can be just as satisfying as a note, of course, as another teacher showed:
A student visited from college and brought a Physics exam he had gotten an A on. He told me that he had been having a much easier time in Physics than many of his classmates, and the grade was as much mine as it was his (not true, but much appreciated).
Even a grateful phone call matters. As one teacher put it in response to a Quora question about how to really thank a teacher:
Every time I walk in my classroom, I glance at my phone: if the voicemail light is flashing, my stomach starts churning, because NO ONE EVER calls to say “Thanks! You’re doing a great job!”
Call, email, send a card. It doesn’t matter how, just thank them.
Take the Time to Tell Their Bosses, Too
Teachers want to feel valued by students and parents, but just like any other worker, they want their bosses to value them, as well. Know how to really thank a teacher? Talking them up to their principal can lead to real benefits like positive reviews, raises, and awards. In one very cool case, a teacher told PBS how great it was when a student wrote a letter of recommendation:
Several years ago I was applying for a new position and needed three letters of recommendation. One of my students heard about it and wrote one in my behalf. I’ll never forget it – and it got me the job!
Put Real Thought Into Your Gifts for Teachers
Another Quora commenter notes that teachers, like everyone else, don’t need generic knickknacks that just take up space: “Don’t give in to the temptation to buy that cute ‘To my teacher’ tchotchke!” she writes. “I bought my current house from a retired teacher. When she was moving out, she put into the trash more than three garbage bags full of trinkets she had received over the years.”
Meaningful gifts express a connection to the teacher as an individual — one teacher raved to PBS about getting a bust of French intellectual Voltaire from a student. Another showed off the many gifts he’d received related to his doppelganger Abraham Lincoln. Another received a gorgeous handmade chessboard from a student. And of course, if your resources don’t allow for such a big show of gratitude, many teachers agreed that coffee gift cards or some favorite candy are reliable standbys.
Maybe coolest of all, though, is the story of a student who took time to share her thanks along with a delicious surprise:
The best teacher appreciation gift I ever received was a cake left on my desk with a note from a student who was in her first year of teaching. She said I am the reason she became a teacher.
Now that’s how to really thank a teacher!
Thank a Teacher in the Workplace Too!
gThankYou believes there is just not enough gratitude in the world, especially in the workplace. Whether you work at a school, in a factory or at an office, we are surrounded by teachers – colleagues who take the time and effort to train, mentor and make sure we are successful and safe in our jobs. Take advantage of this week’s focus on teacher appreciation and share your heartfelt thanks with them too.
Your workplace “Thank You’s” aren’t just nice to do. Overtime, sharing sincere, thoughtful and specific appreciation with employees fosters happiness, loyalty and a more successful workplace culture. Learn how to use gratitude to build a better workplace that employees love and where they are more productive.
Download our FREE how-to guide, “Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude” and start today.
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