I like Teacher Appreciation Week.
I don't work in one of those schools where the PTA goes all out and does big luncheons and gifts and things for teachers; we don't actually have a PTA (don't get me started on our lack of parent involvement, let alone engagement - Larry Ferlazzo would be so disappointed in us....), so not much happens there. Anything that happens is really coordinated by individual teachers, and so it's sort of hit or miss, but the things that do happen are really, really, really nice.
The seventh grade math teachers this year had kids write a Thank You Gram to a teacher in the school that they appreciated. Since I taught 6th grade last year, I got quite a few - some from kids that I knew loved me, and some from kids that were surprises. One even from a girl who really disliked me (or at least I thought she did....guess not). They were super sweet, and I will treasure all of them.
In my class, I asked kids to write letters to a teacher that they felt had really helped them with something, had really made a difference in some way. I asked them to be specific about what it was they appreciated because specificity is always good, and to write something that is at least four or five sentences long. And I told them they could write to anyone - to any teacher they've ever had in our city's metro area. All they had to do, if they were writing to a teacher from another school, is put the name of the school and the district at the top of the letter, and I'd get the letter to them. I did this last year too, and I felt it was a little more authentically appreciative than insisting on them writing to a teacher currently in the building.
Naturally, a lot of kids wrote to teachers at my school. But a lot didn't. I have letters to send to elementary teachers, guidance counselors and teachers at other schools (again, that mobility thing), even teachers who have moved out of the state (I'm Facebooking two people to get current addresses).
The letters are so sweet. I got several, of course - and I don't say of course because I think I'm such an awesome teacher that I deserve a bunch, but because I'm the teacher in the room asking them to do this. I don't want letters from kids just because they're looking at my face while they write them, only if they actually mean it, but I think at least a few probably wrote to me because I was there. Which is fine - but I'd rather they wrote to someone they really feel helped them.
Some of the letters I got, though, were so touching. I got one from Drama King in which he called me his hero (especially nice considering the last few weeks' ups and downs), and one from the Chowhound, in which he said he wished I could go to high school with him. I got one from the girl who'd written that she feels like I don't care when I don't notice that something's wrong; she wrote that I do notice when something is wrong, and that I'm the only teacher she's ever told a few personal things to because she knew I cared.
My very, very favorite letter was from one of my quietest students. She works hard, she always gets everything done, she will do and redo her work until it's good enough....she's awesome, but she's not one of the kids who comes and talks to me about stuff or who hangs out in my room or any of that. But her letter....oh my.
She wrote that she'd never liked Language Arts before this year but this year it's her favorite subject. She talked about how much she thinks she's grown as a reader and a writer. She finished by saying that I am one of the most unique teachers she's ever met.
As a teacher, hearing that you've changed someone's perception of your content area? That's a humbling and incredible experience.
I keep every single letter I've ever gotten from a student. I have them in a file; I don't go through them very often but they're there. Mostly it's because I don't feel like I can just dump these heartfelt and appreciative feelings into a recycling bin and walk away from them. That just seems so cold. But it's also so that I can go back and read them when I'm feeling down or irritated or something.
I will cherish these letters. And I hope that the teachers I send the other letters to will cherish theirs also. It's a little bit of extra work for me, but I think it's worth it. I know how meaningful it would be to me to get letters like these from former students who aren't even in my building anymore. I hope someday I get one, but until then, and honestly even after, I'll keep these notes both in my filing cabinet and my heart.
(Image credit to cello512)