When the school year began, it’s safe to say that no one envisioned a pandemic would shutter our schools and force our classrooms online. I debated homeschooling my own son just a few months prior to his enrollment in kindergarten, but decided he would try school out. We did not sign up for distance learning, and my son’s teacher didn’t either!
I spoke to a teacher friend recently about her newfound responsibilities while teaching from home, and she said, “I feel like I have a new job that I never applied for, and I don’t like.” Suddenly forced to learn an entirely new set of tools, use those tools to reach all of their students, and—in many cases—teach their own children at home as well, many teachers are struggling.
Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8, 2020) has taken on a new meaning in this time of distance learning. No longer can parents, Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs), and school administrators show their gratitude for teachers with Taco Tuesdays. Even though showing our gratitude as parents will be different, it’s still possible to thank them on a daily basis!
Here are some ideas to show your child’s teacher some appreciation while social distancing:
- Keep it positive. Refrain from voicing your opinion about every decision teachers make and be supportive. One week, I got three different emails from school that described three different processes for doing the same thing. Although frustrated, I refrained from writing the teacher about it because I knew this was new territory. Teachers are figuring out how to navigate this new system for learning and are writing the guidebook as they go. If you are confused about something or need help, definitely reach out. Teachers want to help, but be mindful of the tone in which you’re asking.
- Follow instructions, no matter how tedious. Teachers understand that what they’re asking of parents and students can be burdensome, but they’re asking for a good reason: it will help them and our children. When teachers ask us to navigate some new process for submitting our children’s assignments, we can support them by following their instructions. It’s also a good opportunity to share with your child that sometimes things can be frustrating. Help them work on being patient and show them how to take some time out to calm down and feel better.
- Send in videos talking about assignments. Whenever it’s possible or realistic—check with the teacher to make sure it’s helpful—send in a video with your child speaking about their assignment. Teachers rely on student’s verbalized thoughts to help them assess how much a child understands. Hearing your child’s voice will not only put a smile on their teacher’s face, but will help them assess student learning as well. Check with your teacher to see how they want to receive these. I’ve used the free web-based tool Vocaroo for audio recordings and my phone for video recordings.
- Write a thank-you email. Teachers appreciate hearing from parents, especially when the correspondence is about something positive. Send a thank-you email to your child’s teachers, and be specific about what you appreciate. For example, my child’s teachers always write an email response for every assignment he submits. I love this because I know that they got his assignment, and he gets a note from his teacher. This is one thing I want to thank them for!
- Help kids write a letter to the teacher. Educators love hearing from their students. Have your child show some love to their teachers by writing a letter or sharing kind wishes with pictures. These engaging activities help keep your child focused on positive thoughts and gratitude. You can either mail your child’s work or email pictures of it until they can deliver it to their teacher in person.
- Give a shout-out to teachers on social media. If your school or PTO has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media page, you can write a post thanking teachers. Ask other parents to comment on the thread about why they appreciate their kids’ teachers. Have people tag teachers they know to share the supportive messages. Your child’s teacher may see the message, and it will inspire other parents to think about teachers and the hard work they put in to educate their students.
- Send a gift card. You may not be able to see your child’s teacher in person, but many stores and websites allow you to send gift cards through mail or email. If you were planning on sending teachers some monetary encouragement anyway, electronic or mailed gift cards can be a good alternative to that gift card you might have hand-delivered under normal circumstances.
- Send them a meal. We cannot buy teachers a coffee or bring them breakfast, but we can still serve them. Some restaurants will deliver within certain areas, while many others use delivery services, such as PostMates, GrubHub, DoorDash, and so on. During this time, most restaurants will provide delivery options on their websites, or you can call the restaurant directly. Be sure to coordinate with your child’s teacher before placing any orders.
- Volunteer to help the PTO. PTOs are thinking of ways to support teachers. Your school’s PTO may have some ideas for you, or they may be able to put you to work.
- Hang a poster on your window. Window art is all the rage right now. Neighbors are walking around admiring children’s artwork and posting art in their own windows. Have your child make a poster thanking their teacher, hang it on a front window, and let your teacher know it’s there! It will be a great way to offer teachers some encouragement and inspire neighbors to do the same.
Whether educators are in their classrooms or on a video conference call, they are still changing the world one student at a time. Let’s appreciate their efforts and help them in any way we can.
By Jennifer Sobalvarro, who has experience teaching in 3rd and 5th grade classrooms as well as ELL instruction.