123. Appreciating Teachers

When a child tells a teacher, “You’re the best teacher in the world,” or says, “You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had,” that appreciation, though appreciated, is usually quickly transformed in the teacher’s mind. The child hasn’t known very many teachers, has had even fewer, and it’s very possible that the child will soon meet “better” teachers. The teacher translates the comment into “I like you,” which is just special enough.
When a parent or other adult voices appreciation, and gives supporting details, it does something else for a teacher. It makes the teacher feel good, as does the child’s comment, but it also says to continue doing what has been appreciated – maybe find ways to do it more, or better. Maybe help other teachers learn to do it. It’s not that the child’s comment is worth less; it’s that the adult’s specific comment has more practical applications.
Lately, I’ve become aware of another kind of appreciation. The children we teach – even the really young ones – grow up. And sometimes the resulting adults have early childhood memories that outdo “You’re the best teacher in the world,” or “You’ve really helped my child.” I have warm memories of some of the teachers I’ve had, including my second grade teacher, Mrs. Keedle. I wish I had some way of letting her know that I appreciate the support she gave me in second grade, and that I spent years teaching second grade. She’s probably in her mid- sixties now, and I’ll bet she’d like to hear that she’s remembered fondly. I wrote to the Oakwood Elementary School, and they don’t know where she is. Her first name is Barbara. Please let me know if you know where she is.
If you know a teacher who is doing things that help children feel good, figure things out, learn what seemed too hard at first, I have an assignment for you. Take a few minutes and write down your thoughts about this teacher. Be as specific as possible. Get these thoughts to the teacher. It may do more than put a smile on a teacher’s face, although that’s pretty good by itself. It may help to make sure that more children get the kind of treatment that you appreciate.

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