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Parents, Teacher Appreciation Week Isn’t About Us

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

As far as school years go, this one goes down in history. My son’s teacher and I got off to a rocky start. I wrote about it. The world read about it. And I felt compelled to make a conscious choice about the tone it would set for the remainder of the school year.

I realized soon enough, however, that the school year wasn’t about me. I mean, of course, I’m actively involved in my son’s education, but I just play a supporting role. Would I need to love his teacher and be loved in return? No. Would it have been nice if we could have? Sure, but what mattered more than our relationship was the status of theirs.

My son’s a lover. He loves police officers, anyone who drives a really big truck, and his teacher. He’s always loved his teachers, so it came as no surprise when he hatched a grand plan for Teacher Appreciation Week.

“What should I give my teacher, Mom? A gold bracelet?” he earnestly asked.

Fine jewelry was a fine idea — not a practical one, mind you — but a generous sentiment nevertheless. And I’ll admit, a bruised part of me wanted to suggest we go with a packet of Post-Its and orange highlighters instead, but Teacher Appreciation Week wasn’t about me, or my past hurts, or even the sometimes complicated nature of misunderstandings. This was about my son and his good heart’s desire to show his teacher how much he cares.

Now, I know not every parent feels the same way. When it comes to the subject of National Teacher Appreciation Week, parents stand pretty divided, often based upon their own personal feelings.

Yeah, last year I gave my son’s teacher a really nice gift because she was great. I can’t stand his teacher this year, so forget it. I’m not doing anything.

Logically, I understand. It is the parent’s money and energy that goes into selecting, purchasing, and wrapping a teacher’s gift, but I wonder if parents opting out ever stop to consider how their child might feel about not participating. Because let’s be honest, the lack of a parent-teacher love connection does not a bad teacher necessarily make.

A few years ago my husband didn’t click (and that’s putting it mildly) with our eldest son’s teacher and their relationship turned very sour very quickly. When I finally worked up enough nerve to step in, I discovered the teacher was not only the best possible combination of tough and tender, she was exactly what my son needed. And guess what? Even though our son spent the majority of the school year in his teacher’s academic and behavioral doghouse, he absolutely adored her.

I know what you’re going to say. It’s part of a teacher’s job to establish a professional working relationship with parents. To communicate kindly and effectively, to offer support and guidance, to listen. And while I know not every teacher performs these tasks to the gold standard some might expect, there’s no denying that teaching is damn hard work. So if our kids want to celebrate their teachers for reasons wacky or wonderful, doesn’t gratitude deserves opportunity?

Like so many things with my second grader, I’m letting his heart take the lead on this one. I may not be able to gift his teacher a gold bracelet in recognition of her efforts this year, but I can surely support him in expressing his appreciation for the gifts she’s given him.

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