Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Your assignment: Write your teachers

We've heard it a million times: Teacher morale is in the toilet. Stress is soaring, money is tight and pink slips are about to fly.

Here's something you can do: Let teachers know how much difference they make.

It happens to be teacher appreciation week, and I normally react to official awareness events like they're spiders in my bathtub. But in this case, it's a good reminder that a very tough school year is winding to a close. So:

If you're a student, take a minute, use an old-fashioned sheet of paper and write your teacher a thank-you.

If you're a soon-to-be-grad, think over your time in school and the teachers who stand out in your memory. Let them know. Include specific memories. Funny is good. Most teachers have a sense of humor.

If you're a parent, you may empathize with a friend who posted this note on Facebook:
"Teacher Appreciation Week should not require eighty eleven emails with multiple step directives and a spreadsheet. (Signed), She Who Does Not Enjoy Buying Flowers at 6:30 a.m. Before School." I'm willing to bet that if your child hands over a personal note it will mean more than all the official hoopla. And if your child attends a school that doesn't do flowers and festivities, it will mean even more.

And if you're an adult, parent or not, remember that it may not be too late to say thanks to the teachers who shaped your life. Social media and the Internet make it easier than ever to track folks down. My high school closed long ago, but I found my journalism teacher just before he retired from another district and let him know I remembered him fondly and had gone on to earn a living in the field.

Over Christmas break, longtime Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher Glenda Blaisdell-Buck told me what a great time she'd had talking to a former student from Independence High in the 1990s. "He's one of those kids that you feel privileged to have taught," she said. Like many CMS teachers, she's often felt exhausted by the challenges of urban education. Hearing the young man enthuse about what she'd taught him infused her with energy.

"You just think, 'Why am I doing this?' " she said. "That's why."

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