Let’s go back in time a bit. It’s the month before school starts, and we’re tearing through the school aisles desperate to find everything on our kids’ supply lists. There’s too many people and items you can’t find. Of course, you just couldn’t make it to that endcap before the other mom swiped those last two jumbo glue sticks. Your feet hurt, you’re tired, and <insert child’s name here> is constantly whining to go to the toy department, aggravating the ever loving crap out of you.

And then it happens: you let your frustrations out and complain, and who is it directed at? The teacher who wanted all of these supplies to begin with.

Here’s the thing though, these teachers are actually asking parents for the BARE MINIMUM of what your child needs to be successful in their class.

Yep, you heard me right. You, dear parent, are only grabbing the essentials. If your child is in a special needs class, then you probably aren’t even supplying a fraction of what your child needs. Here’s the shocker…the school isn’t supplying it either beyond the basic curriculum. Our largest resource for all those extra things your kid gets in school comes straight from the teachers’ pocket. Their livelihood is going straight back into their classrooms.

pencils, markers, and scissors in metal cups
Photo courtesy of Laura Riveria of Unsplash.com

While I love that my children’s teachers are so dedicated that they spend their own money on our kids, it saddens me. Every time you get a cute craft keepsake from school that your child made or a special snack to learn about something, more than likely that teacher shelled out the money for those supplies.

If 2020 taught us anything, it was that teachers, aides, and other educational staff are one of the country’s most undervalued resources we have.

Many of us learned that we do not have the patience to teach our kids all the lessons these teachers manage from week to week. I’ll raise my hand here because I wanted a nap after remote learning was done for the day last school year. Teaching is both mentally and physically draining, and I was only making sure they did the assignments.  

So how do we thank our teachers all year long?

Join your PTA/PTO

Parent volunteers are always in need to help with fundraising and running student events. Plus, fundraising proceeds to help with teacher, student, and school morale are voted on at PTA/PTO meetings. If your teacher needs something for a special project or just everyday supplies that have already been exhausted, they ask their PTA/PTO board for money. I was honestly shocked after my first meeting at the kinds of things the PTA/PTO are asked to supply for the school. 

Volunteer

Before Covid, I used to volunteer in my youngest son’s classroom by doing things like cutting shapes for crafts, helping with parties, and chaperoning field trips. Now, I try to do even more. Every few weeks, I ask my sons’ teachers if they need any class snacks or supplies. I think I’m unofficially the class mom for both. I’ve sent snacks, Legos, recess balls, books to start a first year teacher’s classroom library, highlighters, crafts and treats for fall, and Halloween and Thanksgiving classroom rotations. As soon as the schools allow parent volunteers back in, I plan to be hands on again. But for now, I help in anyway I can.

Listen Before Your Act

white poster with "WE HEAR YOU" in black textYour child’s teacher isn’t complaining to you about your kid’s grades and behaviors. They are trying to have you be an active participant in their education. They want your child to be every bit as successful as you do.  

 

If your child comes home and tells you something upsetting, call or email the teacher and find out the other side of the story before running to the principal or school board. Do not assume the teacher is the bad guy and that your child got the full story of what was going on. When our middle son was in kindergarten, he told me a wild tale that if I had gone straight over the teacher’s head could have gotten her fired. She was practically in tears when she called me after getting my email because something similar had already happened in the district just weeks before and the teacher was let go. Turns out my kid made it all up.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Get both sides of the story. Make sure your child got the whole story (or in our case, he didn’t invent it) before getting upset.

Show Them Your Care and Thanks

If they send home a list during the school year of classroom supplies that have run low, send what you can, when you can. They know not everyone can send supplies every time. If you want to send them a little gift, I’m sure they’d appreciate it. Take the time to express your gratitude with a thank you card or note; you never know how much those mean to them. Such a small gesture lets that teacher know that not only did they make a difference in their student’s school year, but even the parents noticed. Show them that you know and value their hard work and dedication.

Thank you card
Photo courtesy of Jon Tyson of Unsplash.com

These teachers and school staff are at school before students arrive and after the last student leaves. They spend their evenings and weekends grading assignments and doing lesson plans. They often volunteer just so students have events and other activities available to them during after school hours. Teachers and educational staff put in so much more than a 40 hour work week, and they deserve our thanks and appreciation.

Your children need their teachers and parents to be partners in order for them to succeed. So when you see a paper with a good grade on it from a concept you know your child is struggling with, thank a teacher for caring enough to teach. And thank them all year long.