A Letter to My Children’s Teachers, from a Grateful Parent


A thank you to teachers
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Dear Teacher,

It’s the season of grand finales, the time of last things.

I took my kids’ first-day-of-school pictures, shook your hand at the Open House, blinked, and now here we are: sprinting down the home stretch of another school year. Caught in the dizzying whirlwind of end-of-grade tests and end-of-year assemblies and end-of-everything parties.

It’s exhausting. Expensive. And a little depressing.

It’s bittersweet that my kids are another year older, scribbling their closing lines in another ending-too-soon childhood chapter—but it’s more than that. I’m sad that my children’s time with you is drawing to a close. Not just their time in this grade, with these friends. Their time with you. Their teacher.

When I look at you, I see someone with sparkling talent: Clever. Creative. Charismatic. Compassionate.

You could have used those gifts to pursue any career you wanted.

You chose teaching, the noblest profession of all.

You chose to get up early and stay up late.

You chose to be underpaid and rarely thanked.

You chose to help raise other people’s kids.

You chose to tolerate “the system” because you believe in the children.

You chose to find ways to put your own innovative spin on education, in spite of the complex requirements thrust upon you from Distant Powers That Be.

You chose to push through on days when you were sick, or overwhelmed, or tired—because your students needed you.

You chose to give your kids—my kids—second, third, fourth, and fortieth chances, and to always believe they could be better tomorrow.

You chose to worry about children whose difficult home lives are beyond your power to improve.

You chose to care even though it was a gamble.

You chose to care even when the kids didn’t care back.

You chose to care, period.

This could have been just another year you had to survive.

Another year to slog through, counting the days till summer.

Another year closer to that too-small, still-have-to-moonlight-as-a-tutor-in-order-to-make-it retirement package.


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My child could have been just another project.

Just another name, on just another class roster.

Just another number, one of twenty-five.

But they weren’t. Not to you.

For the past nine months, you chose to love my child, though you did not have to. (Nine months! The time it takes to grow a person . . . coincidence? Perhaps not.)

And it’s not like you had the luxury of handpicking each of your students, choosing the ones who would make a perfect match for your methods, your style. No, someone handed you a roster one hot afternoon as last year’s summer waned. You read down that list and took these children—these people-still-becoming—into your class, and into your heart.

From that first butterflies-in-tummies morning, that day of new shoes and perfect pigtails and fresh pencils, you decided to love those kids—all twenty-five of them. It was a risk, that decision to love. To fully invest. To put your own heart and happiness on the line. To intertwine your grown-up joys and struggles and successes with their growing-up ones.

You took that risk.

I could see it in your eyes, the way you laughed at their endless immature jokes and anticipated, even came to enjoy, all their crazy quirks. After a few months, you understood things about my kids that I thought only I knew: the way she chews her eraser when she’s nervous; the way he gets quiet when he’s got hurt feelings; the way she melts down when she doesn’t get her homework just right.

And it’s not just my kids—you’ve done it for the whole classroom, all twenty-five kids. You’ve cared enough to study them. To figure out what makes sense to them, what motivates them, so you could teach each one in the best way you know how.

When I walked into your classroom to volunteer, I could feel the sense of “we,” the community you had built among those twenty-five young souls. I felt like an outsider—not because you or the kids were rude, but because you were all so close. I wanted in on all your class secrets, your silent pacts, your private jokes. Your crazy “remember when we all fell out of our chairs laughing” stories that only the twenty-six of you can fully appreciate. Your funny sayings that you all shout out at the same time. Your silly songs you sing when it’s time to “flash-flash-ding-ding, change that sign” (whatever that means—I still don’t know).

Pep talk from Mrs. L via @lizzylit

It couldn’t have been easy, forging this connection, creating community from chaos. You took a hodge-podge group of random students—children with varying abilities, from every imaginable family structure, from a broad sampling of cultures and religions—and you built a culture and family of your own. If the whole world could see what you have accomplished in these short months, in this cinderblock classroom, with these precious, different-but-same children, I have to believe the whole planet would be different. Better.

And you know what? The world is different, the world is better, because of what you have achieved here in this tiny room, with this growing group.

And while building unity may have been one of your biggest accomplishments this year, I also treasure the countless small gifts you gave my kids along the way.

You hugged them when they fell on the playground, and I wasn’t there.

You talked them down when they were fighting with friends.

You drew them out when they were quiet, or worried, or discouraged.

You cheered the loudest when they finally got it, that thing that had them confused for so long.

You put up with my kids when they were less than they could have been. I’m sure they annoyed you sometimes. Stumped you. Maybe even made you mad. (Believe me, I know what their bad days are like. I live with them.) But you pushed on anyway. You chose to keep giving.

And this letter is to say thank you, from me and my children.

Your name is inscribed in the pages of our family history: Who was your very first preschool teacher? Your kindergarten teacher? Your second-grade teacher? Your third-grade teacher? Your eighth-grade English teacher? Your name will forever live on in that list, and in our hearts.

Your influence is a thread woven into our family fabric. Your teaching has shaped my children’s upbringing, character, and path. You have changed them, helped them on their way to becoming the people they’re going to be.

For all this, and so much more, to all my kids’ teachers—past, present, and future—thank you for who you are, what you do, and all you give. We will never forget you.

And to Ms. F, Mrs. C, Ms. C, Ms. O, Mrs. B, Mrs. J… we miss you already.

To Mr. M, Mrs. L, Mrs. H, Mrs. W, Mrs. F, “Knock-Knock” and “Nulty,” you know we love you always!


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A thank you to teachers

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Author: Elizabeth Laing Thompson VIEW ALL AUTHORS POSTS

Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.

18 comments

Comments
  • Geri June 2, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I have tears running down my face as I finish reading this. You have SO beautifully expressed the feelings of a mother who entrusts her children to another person for 8 hours every day and for the hearts of those teachers who love them and teach them and help you raise them for 9 months. I know not all teachers are all they should be, but most of them are all that you described. Thank you!!

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Yes, that’s exactly it–we entrust our children to other people’s care, and HOW MUCH it means when they do it with all their hearts, the way so many teachers do!

  • Laurie f June 2, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Beautiful

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Thank you! 🙂

  • My daughter isn’t in school yet but my mom was a teacher. She loved those kids so much. This is awesome. Teachers are underpaid and under appreciated. Beautifullly written.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Your mom sounds amazing. Thanks for reading!

  • Vivien M June 2, 2015 at 11:36 am

    I love reading your blog. This letter just gave me an idea of writing a thank you note to each of our teachers this year. Teachers are wonderful and in so many ways and we owe so much to them. Thank you for writing and encouraging us all with your well-written words.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 2, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      Thanks, Vivien! Oh, I love the idea of hand-writing a note to each teacher. My mom taught us to do that as kids, and it means so much to the teachers. The best end-of-year gift you could give!

  • Chris Carter June 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Aw!!! I just love this, and I can agree with it all for my kids’ teachers. Aren’t they amazing? SO grateful for them all…

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 2, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      THEY ARE!

  • Trish Peters June 2, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Wow! So nice to be appreciated and to have a parent express it so warmly! Thanks, I’m sure with encouragement like that he’ll keep on keeping on.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 2, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      That is EXACTLY how I hope all the teachers who read this feel! They don’t always hear it, but SO MANY PARENTS feel this way about them and their self-sacrificing work.

  • Sarah Philpott June 2, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Yay! I’m a former teacher and can tell you that letters such as this really do boost their morale. Aren’t teachers amazing? My little ones are not yet in school, but I know they will be under good guidance when they do start attending because the educators in my area are superb and are filled with love.

  • Missye June 3, 2015 at 9:13 am

    What a wonderful letter to a wonderful teacher. Both of my children had Mr. M…years ago…and to this day, they both think he is the best teacher ever!! He is something special…and one of those teachers you wish could just follow your children from grade to grade. He makes a positive difference…which we all need every single day.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 3, 2015 at 11:20 am

      I DO wish that we could have Mr. M forever–we just hate to move on from someone so wonderful! And this year ALL my kids’ teachers have been that way…they’ve gone so far beyond the daily requirements, and made school such a happy place of learning for my children.

  • Renee Bergman June 6, 2015 at 3:42 am

    Thank you! Tears were streaming down my face as I read this and I kept shaking my head yes I have said these things before but I didn’t put them together so eloquently as you have done. My daughter has ADD and it has been a struggle for her to find her style of learning but the teachers, the doctors, and I have worked to help her adjust. They have given so much to me and her I can’t wait to say thank you again.

    • Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 7, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Isn’t it AMAZING how they give so much to OUR CHILDREN, to help them succeed? Teachers have such generous hearts—and it sounds like your daughter has found some particularly wonderful ones. Such a blessing!

  • Deb Wright June 9, 2015 at 10:07 am

    What a wonderful world this would be if there were Mom’s so beautifully expressing your sentiments, having this gracious appreciation, and willingness to inspire these important people! Such a wonderful article! Passing your website on to everyone I know!

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