The end of the year is busy! Teachers are overwhelmed. In many states, testing is occurring, and even if you aren’t in a tested grade, you still feel the pressure. It is also the time when teachers often are given gifts from students. Last week I posted about treasured end-of-year gifts that teachers can give their students that won’t break the bank. This week I want to focus on the gifts you might receive from them.
When a child has thought about you in a positive way and shows that by making or buying you something, take the time to open it in front of them and thank them personally! You may not need that coffee mug, but they saw it and thought of you and that deserves a teacher’s sincere appreciation.
I am always on the lookout for nice thank you notes so that I can send home a handwritten thank you the same day. I feel that letting the student and family know I appreciate them thinking of me is the least I can do. Every gift, from the opened bag of M&Ms to the bookstore gift card, gets a thank you note because they each represent a genuine thought. The money spent is never a consideration. I am forever grateful for each and every one.
I have a file folder full of notes that I have received through the years. Lots of them are from students but several are from appreciative parents. I have shed more than a few tears reading them. Gunner gave me the handwritten card pictured to the right. He probably doesn’t even remember writing this card, but I will never forget it. Gunner’s mom later told me that he worked for hours on it and started over so many times because he said it had to be perfect before he would give it to me. I am far from being a perfect teacher but this gift reminds me that I have the perfect job!
In today’s society, when we see that someone has brought a card not attached to a gift, there can sometimes be an assumption that we are about to receive a gift card or cash. My favorite card of all time contained only a special note to me. Years ago, when teaching special education, Alan’s (not his real name) mom handed me a card on his last day of elementary school. I had worked with Alan for three years and right up until the moment that she handed me the card, I would have said that she didn't like me. She was never rude, but her body language at every meeting let me know that she didn’t think I was doing a good job. Her card, however, told me the real story. It told me how hard it was to be a single mother and how important I was in Alan’s life. It said that Alan hated school and that the only reason he ever came to school was to see me. It said that my influence would never be forgotten. It so moved me to think that I had made that kind of difference. I immediately wished I could turn back the clock and do more for Alan. That card still serves as a reminder to make sure that I make the most of each day that I get to teach!
One year, a lovely little student gave me a tiny baby doll with a card attached to the doll’s wrist. It said, “My name is _____________.” My sweet, sweet student wrote her own name on the line and told me she named the doll after herself so that I wouldn’t forget her. Are you crying yet? Because I am!
I posted about my class being part of a postcard pen pal program. That year, my adorable student Rylee gave me a globe. On the base she wrote her name and the year (complete with a backwards 2 in 2014). This globe means the world to me. Every time I look at it, I remember that child's smile lighting up when we would get a new postcard to read!
Some of my favorite tokens are when a parent lets me know that their child saw the object and thought of me. The fact that a child of any age is insistent that I have a doll, globe, or a sign that has my name spelled wrong because the child referred to me all year as Mr. Snip, can really put all the worries of my day into perspective.
Occasionally you will get a gift that a family worked on together. Those are amazing and are always on display in my room. One was a gingerbread man disguised as me! Another family carved a racecar out of wood and decorated it to commemorate our year, because that year I used a racing theme and my class was Mr. Smith's P.I.T. C.R.E.W.
Whitney brought me back a mason jar filled with shells she had collected from a weekend trip. This wonderful souvenir sits proudly on my bookshelf and serves as a beautiful bookend.
Another favorite is my crayon wreath with pictures to represent our year. When a family goes to all this effort to create something for you, words are never enough. Their children are forever a part of me because I taught them and they taught me for 180 days. But when a family spends their time to remember you, it just leaves you speechless.
I have several reasons for writing this post. Many have been stated throughout, but one big reason is that I encourage all new teachers to keep and appreciate these treasures. At the end of your career, all the cards, handwritten notes, and trinkets will mean more to you than you can ever imagine.
I can’t wait to see you next week.