Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Starbucks gift cards are nice but...

I was reading a Facebook post from author Gae Polisner this morning about an email of appreciation she sent to her son's teacher. She proceeded to talk about what that note meant to the teacher, and encouraged others to take a few moments to do the same for their own children's teachers. Her post got me thinking...

December is the time of year when teachers are showered with gifts from students and their parents. It can be overwhelming for us to receive so many Things. And it's not that we don't appreciate these generous, giving gestures from our students and their families -- we really do -- but before you head to Starbucks for that $10 gift card or head straight for that gift basket of body lotions, I want to share with you a simple truth: The gifts I treasured the most as a teacher were the words of thanks and the heartfelt notes of appreciation from both students and parents that made me feel like I was making a difference.

The families at my old school were so incredibly giving to the teachers at Christmastime and I don't want the purpose behind this blog post to make it sound like I'm being ungrateful. Trust me, my heart was full from being the receiver of such generosity. But after seven years of watching Christmases and end of school years come and go, here's what I'll remember being given the most:

  • The parent who sent me an email to thank me for turning her daughter into a reader
  • A thank you note from a mom at the end of the school year telling me that after putting three children through school, I was one of the best teachers her children had ever had 
  • A handmade card from a struggling student who talked about how being in my class helped him
  • The poem a student wrote me about our class that was so rife with growth and learning that it remains, to this day, the best gift a student ever gave me.

Still, every year, many teachers spend a large portion of their hard-earned money on their classrooms for the benefit of their students, so if you really want to buy them something, consider asking them what they need for their classroom. Whether it's much-needed office supplies or books for their classroom library, there's always something we could use for our students. But truly I say unto thee: if you really want to make a teacher's Christmas bright, a card filled with heartfelt, kind, encouraging words gets more mileage than a gift card ever could.
For a teacher, a handmade card filled with words of thanks and encouragement mean more than any material possession