For many of you, the chaos that can mark the end of a school year is heightened with the anxiety produced by the pressure to give your kids’ teachers end of the school year gifts. The dirty little secret in education is that teachers feel as if many of the things they are given actually have very little thought or gratitude attached to them. As a Christian parent, teaching your kids to express their gratitude to others and God should be one of your priorities. So what can you do to teach your kids appropriate character lessons and help their teachers feel truly appreciated?
There is no perfect answer, because the personalities of teachers can vary more widely than one would expect. There are some ideas, however, that should appeal to the vast majority of them.
- Have your kids write sincere, handwritten, specific notes. I know that for many of you, the idea of actually accomplishing this seems unbearable. However, it provides your kids an excellent lesson in going the extra mile, treating others the way you would like to be treated and showing gratitude. These notes need to be highly personal and specific. Encourage them to think of one or two examples of a time when their teachers made an impact on them. Did they have a difficult year, with a problem teacher? It happens. Even the worst teachers teach our kids something, though. They may not want to ”thank” this type of teacher for teaching them how they don’t want to treat children when they are adults, but encourage them to think hard of something positive the teacher did during the year. Notes filled with platitudes will never mean quite as much as notes that are specific. Most great teachers would probably be happier with a note like that from your child than some meaningless gift. (Note: Start really early with beginning or struggling writers. There will be a lot less stress for you and them.)
- Find a gift that shows your family has been paying attention to them as people. Starbucks gift cards are great, but most teachers will never have to pay for a Starbucks drink again for the rest of their lives. How many families paid enough attention to learn that she loves to knit or wants to learn how to do something new. Or maybe she misses riding horses. Gift cards to make those things possible, along with a note connecting it to something shared during the year will let your child’s teacher know you thought of her as a real person and not just an ”employee”.
- Remember the school custodian, librarian, specials teachers and others who are often forgotten. Did the school secretary help you out with something? Was the assistant principal always kind to your child? Notes from you or your kids with a small token will often mean more to the other people who work in your child’s school than an expensive gift to a teacher. No one likes to be forgotten or their kindnesses taken for granted.
- Make gratitude a year long project. Want to make the end of the school year less stressful? Do all of those kind things throughout the year. A teacher who feels genuinely appreciated throughout the year will feel more encouraged than one who has presents thrown at her the last day of school that obviously have very little real thought or gratitude put into them.
- Teach your kids to thank the teacher at the end of every class or day . Our daughter participated in an activity as a child that required taking a lot of classes each week. The studio insisted the children thank the teacher individually before they left the room at the end of each class. In fact, the teachers thanked the students, too. It made a difference in how they treated each other and set a great precedent.
Taking the time to help your kids express real gratitude to their teachers is a great way to teach them some important Christian character traits. Make sure you take full advantage of the opportunity.