How to Appreciate Your Teacher

The first Tuesday of May has been designated as Teacher Appreciation Day. I thought I’d take a moment or two to make note of some of the best ways to appreciate your teacher. These are also steps parents can encourage in their children.

Follow directions the first time.  This shows that you have honed your listening skills. No lines furrow my brow. My face remains smooth and placid. You have a good class period with me, and we both leave happier. If you see me snap off the heels and start lacing up the running shoes, then it’s time for you to run. You have entered the danger zone, and I am about to get you. I hope you ate your Wheaties, kid.

Respond in an appropriate manner.  If your teacher wants you to say, “Yes, ma’am” or “No, ma’am,” then do it.  If she wants you to simply respond “Yes” or “No” in a civilized tone, just do it.  When you score well on a test or project, be happy but not disruptive about your celebration.  If you don’t score as well as you like, don’t broadcast to the entire class about your failing mark.  Your classmates become embarrassed for you.  If you are in trouble, please don’t smirk or grin at me. Smirking shows a lack of respect for what I’m trying to tell you, and it’ s frustrating to feel that you aren’t listening.  If you are so mad that you want to punch someone or something, take a breath, and ask your teacher if you can visit the counselor to talk it out. Maybe you can talk to your teacher about it later on after things have calmed down.

Write her a heartfelt note. Just knowing that my class brings a smile to the faces of some of my students makes me happy and puts a spring in my step.  I keep those notes forever and look back at them when I have a rough go of things. I even keep kind parent emails, too.

Take an interest in her life.  Remember that she is a person, too. If your teacher displays pictures of her family and friends, it means she has relationships outside of school.  Those people in the pictures are her lifeline.  They make her laugh at inside jokes. They make her stomp in with a black cloud over her head. They make her cry happy tears with surprise balloon or flower bouquets.  If she has pets, ask about them. This shows that you have an interest in her beyond the grades she records.

Respect her privacy. On the same token of taking an interest in her life, don’t intrude on her family time.  Some teachers maintain an online social media presence that is private. Others don’t bother with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Sometimes that angry email doesn’t need to be sent at 10:30 P.M. She has to respond to the request in a timely manner (the next morning!), and the little ding of the email signal just woke her up from a dead sleep. Now she’s thinking about how to get back to sleep. If she has a published phone number, never call her at home. Save your phone calls for school office hours. If she’s working in her yard, allow her to do that in peace. Making a U-turn in the cul-de-sac to stop by and “have a chat” is out of line. My home phone number is unpublished because a student called me at home during my first year of teaching. Saying hello at a restaurant, grocery store, etc. is fine, but don’t overstay your welcome.

Don’t sting. Some parents love to get in the “last word” at the end of the day or right before a vacation or weekend and fire off a harshly-toned email. Email correspondence is forever. Those words once sent cannot be taken back. Take a few deep breaths, take the dog for a walk, or take a few moments to yank recalcitrant weeds out of the ground.  Count to one hundred before you hit the send button.  The recipient will have to respond to you, and it may take a great deal of restraint to contact you with a civilized tone of voice.  If you won’t say it in person, don’t say it in print. Think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of written vitriol. It hurts.

Maintain reasonable expectations. Your student is your baby, and you have nurtured him or her from a young age; however, even our own babies surprise us with their actions, words, and thought-patterns.  This comes about as they grow up a little bit each day.  When or if your student’s teacher calls, and it’s not good news, give her a chance to tell you everything she can before you take her head off.  If she’s made an error, show grace. If you’ve made an error, allow her to show you grace. Regardless, take the high road. Even the best students who would NEVER do — will make a mistake or not turn in an assignment on its due date. They are human, their teachers are human, and their parents are human.

Preserve the good name. Bad-mouthing a child’s teacher in front of the child is a sure-fire way to sabotage the relationship between your child and her teacher.  “That Mrs. X is just too demanding!” Little pitchers have big ears, and they mimic our actions, speech, etc.  There have been cases when I’ve had a decent relationship with a student only to somehow upset his mama and/or daddy, and then I pay the price with a child who is disrespectful to me because it’s an acceptable practice at home.  This bleeds over into social media with sites that allow criticism without rebuttal.  Hiding behind a vitriolic post is cowardice–plain and simple.

Painted by Norman Rockwell.  Appeared on cover of Saturday Evening Post, 1956.

Happy Birthday Miss Jones painted by Norman Rockwell. The Saturday Evening Post, March 17, 1956.

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