The first full week of May was Teacher Appreciation Week and, as I forgot to sign up with the PTA to bring in a lunch dish to feed the amazing educators in my children’s lives, I started thinking back to the days I spent teaching in the classroom. 

Before I started living the dream as a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, I was in the classroom five days a week. How many hours did I put into lesson plans, extension activities, grading papers, or analyzing assessments? How many parents’ hands did I hold as I explained the extent of their child’s disability and made promises to teach that child in any way possible? I wonder what the tally was for evening and early morning hours spent at conferences, IEPS training, and staff meetings.

I can honestly say that during those years, I gave my students and their families my everything and my all. If there is such a thing as karma, then it is safe to say it’s playing out for me in my life as a parent, because my daughters have landed the best, most dedicated teachers anyone could ever wish for.

These men and women help us raise our children five days a week, seven hours a day. They teach them academics. They help them to be empathetic, kind, and resilient. These educators wipe their tears, comfort them, ease their anxieties and fears, and give them the hugs and encouragement they need in order to become successful individuals and future contributors to society. Will there ever be a gift you could give during Teacher Appreciation Week that would come remotely close to showing our parental gratitude for all that they do? Hell no.

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This is why we need to do our best to make every week Teacher Appreciation Week. These people are our partners, because it truly does take a village to raise kids. Here are some ways we can appreciate teachers all the time, not just the first week in May. (Side note: this list by no means replaces the Starbucks gift card or box of candy that you might pick up for your kid’s teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week.)

Respect their time

When you develop such a close working relationship with your kid’s teacher, sometimes the lines become blurred. It’s easy to forget that they’re not truly a part of your family and that they might have their own kin to return home to at the end of the day. Try and remember this the next time you skip through the classroom doors to discuss a lengthy non-life-or-death matter well after the last bell has rung. If you walk into their classroom and they already have their purse on or the lights off, tell them you’ll catch them tomorrow morning or write them an email. (Of course if it’s really an important matter, it most likely needs to be addressed right then and there.)

Get familiar with the chain of command

Most schools have an unwritten chain of command that they prefer you go through when addressing school situations. Normally it goes teacher, principal, superior. First you go to the teacher and if no changes are taking place or changes requested aren’t happening, then you head on over to the principal’s office. If that doesn’t do the trick, then you go to the top. Many parents are totally unaware of this chain of command and sometimes, when emotions run high, they will power up and go right to contacting a superintendent. Sometimes this puts our teachers in a pickle, especially when the superintendent walks into the classroom to investigate a situation that a teacher has no clue about. If you have to go right to the top, you should probably let the teacher know as well, assuming they are not the problem themselves.

Email turn-around time

Most teachers will kindly return your emails within a day, maybe two if a lot is going on (which is kind of a given!). When you’re desperate for answers to your questions regarding your little one, one or two days can seem like a year. Every time you feel like you’re being ignored because the email turn-around response is somewhat sluggish just remember: those teachers are not sitting at their desk staring at their computers. They are engaging with your kids every second of their work day. Sure, they get small breaks during specials and lunch, but those are often used to meet and confer with other teachers and school professionals, run copies, grade papers, make lesson plans, make behavior plans, make substitute teacher plans, and maybe pee.

Trust the professionals

You’re mom or dad. You are your kid’s first and most important teacher. You know what makes them tick and what motivates them. It’s hard to pass that torch. The good news is you don’t have to completely pass it over to the classroom teacher, you just need to share it. Your child’s teacher is your partner, they want to be in that role. They went to college for five years to be your partner in your child’s education. Listen to what they have to say, sleep on it, think on it, consider it. Not everything they suggest will tickle your fancy, but some of it will work. Help them do their jobs by hearing their professional opinion regarding your kid.

Catch them “being good”

They do it for our kids, try doing it right back to them. Everyone wants praise  for what they do and teachers are no different. They pour their time, heart, and soul into lessons and activities and if one strikes you as extra meaningful and amazing then tell them! They’ll love to hear that something they worked so hard on made even a small difference to one child or family. Aside from that, knowing how parents feel about certain units of study and activities helps teachers fine tune their craft for future classes. Like anything else, you become a master through trial and error.

Thank them

We will never be able to thank them enough for all that they do for our families, but let’s make sure we try to say thank you as often as possible. It’s the least we can do for these incredible individuals.

High five, teachers. You do your thing!