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Teaching Children to Show "Teacher Appreciation"

Notes of Thanks Notes of Thanks

In a few weeks it will be Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week in schools all around the country. It’s always a fun week around our school because the kids really delight in honoring their teachers. I’ve been in the hall in years past and watched as they come proudly down the hall with a teacher’s favorite flower or a special hand-written note. I’ve listened to teachers “oooh and aahh” with their own thanks. One year I watched a group of second-graders literally swarm their teacher with hugs. I’ve even seen teachers tear up.

My oldest is in 7th grade now so I’ve been a part of a quite a few of these weeks. I’ve also befriended a few teachers along the way. In the process, I’ve developed a few observations that I’d love to share with you.

Staff Appreciation Week is a great opportunity for our kids. It’s a very tangible opportunity for them to realize that the people who serve them daily deserve our gratitude. There’s a lot of talk these days about making sure our kids feel good about themselves. We encourage them with rewards and recognition all throughout the school year. We showcase their work and applaud their achievements. In the midst of all that encouragement, I want to make sure my kids are also learning to affirm others and glory in the strengths of the people around them. I want them to look past their own desire for affirmation and actively seek opportunities to show gratitude. Staff Appreciation Week is a great way to encourage that.

True gratitude is a bit of an art, really. I want our words of thanks to be specific. Sure, my kids could just say “Thanks for being my language arts teacher, Mrs. Jones! You rock!” But, how much more powerful would it be for them to really think about all the ways Mrs. Jones has helped them this year and choose a few to focus on. “Mrs. Jones, I’m so glad you took the time to introduce me to world of poetry. I have had so much fun expressing my thoughts that way. It has really inspired me to notice the world around me more.” That has so much more meaning and impact than “you rock,” doesn’t it?

It’s also a great way to challenge them to be authentic. It might be that they have a teacher that they don’t like very much. What a great opportunity for me to help them dig a little deeper to think about the good things they can find in their teacher. I don’t want them to learn to be insincere – it might be that Mr. Smith really isn’t a very good teacher. But surely there is something to be affirmed or encouraged. Staff Appreciation Week gives me the perfect platform to shepherd my kids through this process.

And, don’t forget to help your kids think about the other people in the building. Being the janitor or the lunch lady can be a thankless jobs. It’s easy to take all those support staff people for granted. But, a cheerful janitor can change the whole atmosphere of the building. If you’ve got one like that, make sure he knows how much your family appreciates the way he serves behind the scenes!

Lastly, remember that Staff Appreciation Week is not about how good of a crafter you are or how much money you can spend. This is a tricky one because it’s all about motives and I certainly don’t want to judge or bring condemnation on anyone who likes to “go all out” on an occasion like this. If that’s you, go for it. But, I’m just going to be honest here and admit that sometimes my gift-giving is really more about me and less about the person I’m giving the gift to. Only you know your heart motives, but I want to encourage you to make sure that whatever you do is really about blessing your teachers and staff. Don’t let it be about impressing everyone else.

This is our last year at our elementary school building and I have to say that I’ll be sad not to see some of the people there. We’ve had some really excellent teachers who go the extra mile. Our principal is such an insightful leader in a building that has an incredibly diverse group of students - socioeconomically and racially. It's been a great public school experience for us. The McKees will genuinely miss those teachers and staff. Now, I just need to make sure sure that they know it!

Grace and peace,


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