Another school year is coming to an end, and so too will the time my kids spend with some very important and influential people — their teachers.
Our family has been coming up with meaningful ways to say thank you for over a dozen years now, but it was after a turbulent start in grade school for one of my kids that we discovered the most appreciated kind of gift.
A gift card didn’t seem adequate for the many ways my son’s teachers had shown up for him that year. I was witness to encouragement and advocacy on his behalf, and I felt my son was truly seen and appreciated for who he was — despite the challenges of that school year.
As a storyteller, it felt natural to write them a story about the year and all the ways I had seen them make a difference. I added a photo of him as a toddler to convey how much it meant that they cared for him like he was someone’s child. And the response I received to that letter was beautiful, with one of the teachers telling me it changed the way she saw her job.
Now my kids expect to spend time every June writing a letter about their year for their teachers. I break it down into a few headings/prompts to help them get their thoughts across, and they can add whatever they want to.
My favourite subject this year was:
Many teachers go above and beyond to bring inquiry style learning into their classrooms, and that means extra work and creativity on their part. For my grade two daughter, it was the Indigenous Peoples learning that her teacher wove into their lessons throughout the year that really made an impact. She cried through a reading of The Secret Path, and her teacher did, too. It’s something she’ll always remember.
Think outside the box. Was there a lesson that your child came home from school and couldn’t wait to tell you all about?
I loved it when:
For my grade six kid, an opportunity to do pottery with her class was an unexpected and wonderful way to end the school year. Her teacher sourced and purchased the art supplies and they were given full license to be creative with their projects. She understood that her teacher went out of her way to give this to her students, and really appreciated it. My son loved an online penpal program that his language teacher had her students participate in with students from across the world. They exchanged information about their every day life and routines and it was a very positive and eye-opening experience for him.
Which project was your child really engaged in? It could be a classroom activity or a memorable field trip.
I was surprised when:
Grade eight can be a time that phys ed class is awkward and hard to make fun for so many different skill levels. My son’s teacher approached gym class as an opportunity to teach inclusivity and good sportsmanship. He created teams and had fun tournaments that gave the kids a sense of belonging. There were ceremonies and certificates to acknowledge each other’s contributions beyond just athletics. Not only did my son gain valuable experience in his physical education, he also got a wonderful boost of confidence and ended up loving the class.
Did your child’s teacher inspire your child to like a subject they didn’t think they would?
I will miss:
Three of my four children were lucky to have the same teacher during their primary years. She has the wonderful practice of reading out loud to them from beloved classics like Charlotte’s Web. Even though the kids were able to read it on their own, it was magical for them to share the stories in real time with their classmates. At the end of the book, she would host a screening with popcorn. All of my children told me how much they would miss listening to her read to them.
This is chance for your child to share a personal anecdote about their teacher that may or may not have anything to do with teaching and more to do with how their teacher made them feel.
At the end of my child’s letter, I’ll add my own note about how I’ve seen my child grow and thrive during the school year. It’s often a surprise for a teacher to hear the little things they did made a big difference.
By taking the time to write a letter each year, my children also learn that a small gesture can have great meaning and a thank you gift can be as simple as taking the time to let someone know you noticed that they cared.