Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making some suggestions of possible sources of gifts for the teachers in your life. Some will be products for purchase. Some will be ideas of things to make. All of them will be meant to help remember teachers as worthy of thanks.
At each schools year’s finish, I gave the same assignment. Rather than asking my students to write about what they’d learned in the school year as part of some essay that would be far from cherished and not have the time for attention as our other writing projects had, I had them write a letter.
I showed them an manilla folder that travelled with me from my first classroom. “This is the good stuff,” I’d say. “These are the cards, letters, sticky notes and snapshots from kids across the years I’ve taught. On days when I get to the end and I’m pretty sure I’ve screwed all of you up, I read one or two of these. It helps.”
The folder now lives on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. I think of its position as the foundation.
Then, I told my students about Mr. Curry, and how he taught me math in high school and also how to be a caring teacher. I told them about the e-mail I sent Mr. Curry once I was a teacher and realized how much of him was in my teaching. I told them about how he replied and told me it wasn’t nice to make old men cry.
And then I told my kids to think of a teacher in their lives who was their Mr. Curry or who had inspired them or whom they’d like to make proud. “Write a letter to tell them how you’re doing and what you’ve learned.”
And they wrote. They looked up addresses to old schools, addressed envelopes, and sealed their letters inside.
If the teachers were from my school, I got to deliver them and watch as they were read. They were narrative report cards holding only the good stuff – moments of reminders that what they did mattered, and they hadn’t screwed the kids up too badly.
Do that this holiday season.
If you’re a parent, write a letter to one of your kid’s teachers letting them know just how much you appreciate and honor the work they do each day to help your kid (a complete stranger) understand a little bit more about the world and their place in it.
If you’re a teacher, write a letter to one of your colleagues letting them know you see how much they do for your students, your school and your faculty.
If you’re a student, write a letter to a teacher telling them how they helped you learn.
Maybe you’ll be the first entry in their Good Stuff folder.