I have gratitude anxiety as a parent of elementary school aged kids. Every single day of the school year, my children fly out the door, walk three doors down, one hops on the bus and the other walks into school. For the duration of their absence, I worry about a lot of things--like how I will finish this or that deadline or if this or that project will come together--but one thing I don't have to worry about is how my children are doing. Both of their schools are full of the kind of young (and seasoned) professionals who are there, not because of the money (what teacher is in it for the money?) but because they love kids, they are passionate about learning and they love their jobs.
My kids--even with all the normal ups and downs of school life--are in good shape as a result, and they're receiving something from these men and women that I could never give them on my own as I juggle my work and other grownup demands. How can my thank you really communicate that? How can I explain how incredibly glad I am that these people give and care for my kids day after day after day?
One year when my budget dictated there would be no Starbucks or Target cards, I decided to write letters instead. And not the kind of personal note you might expect from a mom to a kindergarten teacher. I wrote professional letters of recommendation and appreciation for each teacher's professional file and I sent copies all the way up the administrative food chain.
It was the most enthusiastically received gift I had ever given a teacher--something that could last forever--or as long as the teacher hoped for a raise or a promotion or any other kind of recognition for a job well done. And it was a powerful tool for those teachers in areas where budget cuts meant one less specialist would be needed in the year to come.
This kind of letter wasn't hard to write, though it took a little time out for reflection. Here are the basic elements:
A professional tone. Pretend you're writing for a colleague looking to secure a new position or a peer entering a rigorous review process. No flowery words are necessary. Just the facts.
Concrete examples based on need. Be clear about what kind of specific help your child needed during this year and how the teacher provided that assistance. For example, if you have a child who struggles academically, you can note how the teacher consistently kept your child seated in the front of the class and kept you apprised of daily progress. This is a simple thing, but in a typewritten letter it communicates strongly.
Details that reflect dedication or commitment. These are the above and beyond items. Be a good detective of your teacher's unique contributions. Every teacher has their area of strength--that little way they go the extra mile out of their own dedication to excellence. Be sure to include this element in your letter. For example, one year one of my kids had a first year teacher who was inexperienced in the classroom, but she had a remarkable gift for tracking and encouraging individual academic growth. This is something the principal needed to know.
High praise and requests. A strong letter asks the teacher's superiors to do everything in their power to provide ongoing training and growth opportunities for the teacher's career and development. Every teacher appreciates someone advocating for their career growth, and every teacher can benefit from this kind of door opening.
You might be wondering if you can pull this off with some teachers and not with others. I decided to give it a go with all my kids teachers and was surprised to discover there was something really good to say about everyone.
Will you join us as we get ready to show our gratitude in a remarkable way? All the information is right here.