Teaching is a career that many feel called to pursue. For some educators, it’s merely a job, but for others, it’s a calling, ministry—even a destiny.
But teaching in modern America is no walk in the park, and since the Covid-19 pandemic, this career has gotten even harder.
While education and educators alike are hailed as top priorities by politicians, community leaders, and even religious organizations, many teachers feel undervalued on a practical level. Their days are long, and the job often seems thankless.
Regardless, good teachers pour themselves into their students, genuinely caring about the well-being and future success of their pupils. Emotionally, intellectually, and sometimes even financially, these individuals are often tired and burned out. Nonetheless, they keep going because they love what they do and the young people they work with.
What can remedy this situation?
Policymakers may bicker over legislation. School boards may play tug of war with one solution or another. However, teachers don’t have to wait for help to come from a place of officialdom. Families and students can spread joy and energy through their schools, lifting weary teachers’ heads and lightening their hearts!
Let’s examine 16 ways you and your kids can brighten their teachers’ day and let these educators know that they are seen, heard, and appreciated.
A proverb in the Bible states that “death and life are in the power of the tongue….” When we use our voice to encourage others, we bring life to them, while cruel words bring discouragement and pain.
- Stop, look your teacher in the eye, and ask them how they are. “How are you?” is an almost-laughable everyday formality, to which no one expects an actual answer. Stopping to ask this question with sincerity will offer your (or your kids’) teacher a chance to feel the humanity between you and let them know that you genuinely care.
We can forget that people we see every day in a particular role are actually real people with real lives, emotions, problems, and victories. One way to bring life to a teacher’s day is to speak to them as a person.
- Converse with your teacher. Real conversation means a lot. One college professor notes how much it meant to him when one of his students took the time and effort to converse with him as they walked together one day. No matter what level of education they teach, teachers appreciate it when parents and students enjoy their company enough to talk together socially.
- Say “thank you.” This simple phrase can warm a teacher’s heart in surprising ways. When a student stops, looks their teacher in the eye, and expresses their gratitude, it lets the educator know that what they’re doing means something. Whether you’re thanking your teacher for their efforts in general or for helping you in a specific area, a sincere word to let them know you appreciate them can mean the world. Parents, this also applies to you! Teachers deal with plenty of disgruntled, irate parents. Your heartfelt appreciation lets educators know that their education efforts do not go unnoticed.
- Make a short video of your child thanking their teacher. For a creative spin, maybe add some fun footage of them implementing knowledge from class or just having fun around your home. Make it personal enough to let the teacher know you care and email it as a lasting reminder of their impact.
- This one’s for students specifically: pay attention. Teachers spend a lot of time, mental energy, and oftentimes even money to make their lessons engaging and memorable. Your attention is a wonderful way to show respect and make your teacher feel special. When a student asks an insightful question or responds to a question with an intelligent reply, a teacher’s heart soars. This simple action encourages your teacher and lets them know that their efforts aren’t wasted.
Write a Bright Spot
Betty Edwards once wrote, “In all the ways we express ourselves nonverbally, none is quite so personal as our handwriting.” Handwritten communication delivers a sense of beauty and personality along with the literal meaning of the words.
- Of course, the most obvious way to encourage a teacher this way is through a hand-written note. While a simple “Thank you for all that you do” is a friendly, concise sentiment, more creative options can add extra sparkle to your gesture. For example:
- Choose two or three specific traits that you appreciate about them as a teacher or as a person.
- Explain how much their help meant to you during an especially difficult lesson.
- Discuss an aspect of their teaching style that you appreciate
Everyone likes to be noticed and appreciated for who they are or for specific aspects of their work. Teachers are no exception! For added fun, have your child snail mail the note! Children today rarely have that exciting opportunity to place a stamp on a letter and place it in the mailbox or dropbox. And who doesn’t enjoy getting “real” mail when they open their mailbox? I know I do!
- Coordinate with other students to surprise the teacher with an array of colorful handwritten notes when they arrive at class. Waterford.org suggests, “Decorate your teacher’s door with messages of support if you have permission from your school administrators.”
- Have your child write a poem or a short story about their time in the class. They can include special details about how their teacher impacted their learning experience or highlight some of their favorite lessons/moments.
- Coordinate with others in the class to create a “what we appreciate about you” jar. Fill it with handwritten, single-sentence notes from both parents and students—or even other teachers in the school. When your child’s educator is feeling discouraged, they can pull out a reminder of why they do what they do and the difference that they are making.
- Of course, all written communication doesn’t have to be handwritten. An encouraging email is thoroughly appropriate and can be delightful. Let the teacher know what you appreciate specifically about their relationship with your child.
- Don’t forget former teachers! One high school teacher asked former students to drop him a note letting him know how they were doing. He was overjoyed at the responses he received. Consider getting in touch with a former teacher or two. Give them a brief update on your successes and point out how their influence helped you achieve your goals.
Light Up the World With a Gift
“Some gifts are big. Others are small. But the ones that come from the heart are the best gift of all.”
A well-thought-out gift from the heart means so much more than the gift itself. Teachers treasure gifts from their students, and it warms their hearts to know that they are loved. There are thousands of possible gifts for teachers from students and parents, but here are some unique options.
- Your time is one of your most valuable assets. Gifting your time to a teacher may be as simple as helping clean up the classroom. If you want to help out in bigger chunks of time, ask what volunteer opportunities are available. Teachers have a lot on their plates, so participation is always welcome!
- Note your teacher’s favorite beverage so you can show up to class with their drink and a happy note in hand. Alternatively, you can show up early and leave it on their desk so that it’s ready for them when they arrive.
- Donate school supplies or books for the classroom library. Teachers often provide those items personally, so getting help from the community is encouraging.
- A gift card to a local hotspot, their favorite coffee shop, or a school supply store is a thoughtful gesture.
- Covid protocols are slowly receding, but if your child is still distance-learning, here’s a suggestion for you. Take a picture of your child in their makeshift classroom as they study and use it to create a photo gift. Covid has brought extra stress, making distance teaching particularly hard on teachers. Offering a glimpse into your child’s workspace gives their teacher a connection in an otherwise-impersonal classroom environment.
Be a Rainbow
“Be a rainbow in someone’s day.” This proverb of unknown origin encourages us to spread kindness and joy to the world around us. Teaching can be dark and discouraging, with hard days, difficult moments, and frustrating situations. But it’s also a rewarding and fulfilling job that educators passionately pursue—and that families should appreciate!
A small word, gesture, or gift from students and parents can be enough to brighten a teacher’s day and keep them going for another school year.
Today, make a teacher smile.