This week is Teacher Appreciation week. If you are wondering how to show appreciation, I have a few ideas. This list is made with early childhood educators in mind, but will work for school teachers as well. It all depends on the needs of your schools and classrooms. At our center, a handful of parents will bring in food on Teacher Appreciation day and maybe a couple of parents will bring a small gift. During the rest of the year, we rarely get a thank you or any acknowledgment for the work that we do. In fact, many people don’t even see early childhood educators as teachers at all. They see us as glorified babysitters.
Yes, we change diapers, feed and clean up after kids, but our work involves so much more than that. We read, teaching them vocabulary. We show them how to use crayons, markers and paintbrushes for pre-writing skills. We use messy art activities to encourage creativity and self-expression. During meals we teach social skills like how to take turns talking and how to share with others. As educators, we have to know when the unplanned teachable moments pop up as well.
We teach about math, science and technology. Although it looks like just playing to most people, research shows that children learn best through play. Children are getting less opportunities for play with the push for academics at younger and younger ages. Being an advocate is another of our many hats. We try to treat every child like they are special and give them one on one time when we can.
Our job has a darker side. We have to watch for signs of abuse and neglect. We have to separate children who get aggressive with each other because they do not have the words or the comprehension of sharing. Sometimes we get bit, scratched, hit, kicked and spit on. Many children have special needs and we get little support since they aren’t school age. Many parents I’ve worked with fight us at every turn because no one wants to hear that there is something wrong with their child. As a parent I can empathize, but as an educator, it makes my job so much more difficult. That brings me to the high stress levels and high turn-over rates. My coworkers seem to change every few months and we never really get to build a connection. Educators and children thrive when there is a strong cohesive team. When we don’t have that, our classrooms suffer and that’s when we really need support from you, the parents.
I didn’t choose this job for any rewards or gifts I’d get, but the few times I have received a gift or note of gratitude, it has really brightened my day. When you feel appreciated, it makes some of the struggle worth it. Most of us choose to be teachers to make a difference in the lives of children. When we hear that we have, it lifts our spirits. Here are a few gift ideas to show your teachers that you appreciate their hard work.
Gift cards are fantastic! Whether it is for coffee, a nice dinner or a gift card to get supplies for the classroom, it’s all appreciated. I like picking up breakfast on the way to work. After a long stressful day, it’s nice to enjoy a meal that someone else has prepared. Gift cards serve this purpose well. If you don’t know what classroom supplies your teacher needs, a gift card is a great option for that.
The Wish List
You could also ask your teacher for a wish list. When you buy things for the classroom, we appreciate it very much because we pay for most of the toys and materials out of our own pockets. At one of the centers I’ve worked at, we posted a weekly wish list. It could include anything from flour for play-dough to paper towel roles for projects to raisins to make a special snack. We got to do some wonderful activities with the children because of the generosity of parents. The items may not even cost a penny. They may be items laying around your house. We’ve used egg cartons, old magazines, yogurt containers, fabric scraps, buttons and cereal boxes to name a few. Items that usually get thrown out can be repurposed as kids art projects or props for the dramatic play area.
The Gift of Time
Volunteering your time is another great way to show appreciation. We could always use an extra set of hands in the classroom. If you have special talents or interests, please let us know. Maybe we could use your help. Do you enjoy gardening, many centers have gardens or outdoor areas that get neglected. Are you a crafter? We love items for dramatic play areas like homemade dolls, dress up clothes or if it’s a craft we can teach the kids, even better. Do you like to bake or cook? Baked goods or a home cooked meal that we can enjoy during the day is wonderful. We are usually rushed. Some of us skip meals or have to gulp our food down, so it’s nice to have something to nibble on throughout the day. If money is tight or if gift giving really isn’t your thing, you could write a note of gratitude instead. Your kind words and thoughtful gesture will be appreciated more than material items ever will. Do you have another way to share your time or talents with us? Let us know. Chances are, we will probably welcome and appreciate it.
A More Personal Gift
If you know your teacher well, then it will be easier to give a gift with a more personal touch. Here are some ideas to get you started.
What do you do to show your teachers that you appreciate them? If you are a teacher, what things do you really appreciate from parents? Tell me in the comments.