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Thanks a Latte: Five Ways to (Really) Show Gratitude Towards Your Child’s Teacher

Teacher Appreciation Day is upon us.  So, there’s no better time to get creative with your kid(s) and craft the ultimate expression of gratitude for your favorite educator.  Now I’m not talking about raiding your Pinterest boards and rushing to scrap something together in the eleventh hour (although, let’s be honest, we’ve all been there).  I’m talking about sitting down with your kids, and helping them (yes, them!) come up with a heartfelt way to say ‘thanks’.  After all, these are the professionals whom we trust with the educational and character formation of our offspring when we drop them off to their classroom.

Seriously, it’s science.

As you may know, expressing gratitude in your daily relationships has been proven to improve one’s sense of life satisfaction.  But parents who model genuine expressions of gratitude can actually help their kids foster better attitudes towards school and family, as well as develop a deeper sense of empathy, self-esteem, and optimism.  So sitting down with your kids and taking the time to reflect on what they appreciate about their teacher(s) is not just smart, its a total parenting win.

Okay, so saying “thanks” is one thing but showing it…

How do you show your gratitude and get your teacher something s/he will actually want?  I asked around and sought out the answers.  I surveyed over 15 teachers from varying educational positions in elementary and high school settings across the country.  Their responses?  Almost every teacher responded with preference to one or more of the following five categories:

1. Give Heartfelt & Homemade Gifts

All of the teachers interviewed recalled their favorite gift as one that had been handmade by the student.  None of the teachers felt that the handmade gift needed to be elaborate. In fact, most of their favorite surprises were simple crafts that had heart.

“My favorite gift from a student was a little do-it-yourself potted flower.  I put it together with the class then gave students jobs to keep it in the sun or to water it.  It turned into a whole class project!”  – Alli, Elementary School Teacher

“I have a fun duct tape clipboard that a student made for me, I use it all the time at work.”  – Rachel, Special Education teacher

2. Give Humor

Just do a Google search and you’ll instantly find hundreds of pun-filled ways to say ‘thank you’.  Many of the teachers I spoke to shared that their most memorable tokens of appreciation were those that made them laugh.

3. Give Your Words

The #1 way teachers felt acknowledged and valued was through the written word.  Whether it was a poem, a note riddled with spelling errors, or a crayon-covered card, these were the gestures that warmed the heart.

“I will always cherish the hand-written letters from all of my students.  I have a shoebox where I store all the cards from over the years.  Every now and then I take out the box and grab a few to read.  Those sweet words from students serve as an encouragement…never underestimate the power of your words!”  – Julie, Middle School Spanish Teacher

4. Give Gift Cards

For most teachers, it is not the paycheck that makes them passionate about their profession.  In New Hampshire, most school teachers make at least $5,000 below the national average.  Between the cost of living and student loan payments, many teachers need to pick up a second job during vacations to cover their monthly bills.  Gift cards are always a welcomed, thoughtful gesture. Especially if they are to a cafe or shop that you know the teacher enjoys.

5. Give Spontaneously

Don’t save the thank you’s just for Teacher Appreciation Day.  Nearly all of the teachers interviewed for this article felt most appreciated and encouraged in their career when a student or parent gifted them with a note or a special surprise, out-of-the-blue.

“I’ve been lucky enough to get lots of gifts from students over the years, but the best gifts are always the little notes or pictures that students give me randomly.  Last year a student handed me a note thanking me for showing kindness to kids by greeting them by name as they walked by me in the hall.  I still have it hanging on the wall above my desk. Those gifts are by far the best!”  – Mary, High School Music Teacher

Thank From The Heart…

Above all, thank from the heart and give what you can.  Alberto, a language instructor, shared that his most memorable gift was a simple candy bar from an impoverished family in a small village.  They gave what they had, and that spoke volumes.

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