I’m a former elementary school teacher. While I’m no longer in the profession, but having taught my own classroom for a few years, I can tell you that while being one of the most heartwarming careers, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
Teaching is a beautiful, stressful, evolving, demanding, sacrificial, sweet, chaotic, messy, emotional, and heroic job. Next to us parents, our kids’ teachers are literally helping raise our children. They’re with them almost as many hours as we are. Teachers impart the influential knowledge and attitudes that will be with them for the rest of their lives. They know our kids on their best days and on their worst ones. (And I don’t know about you, but my kids can have a few bad ones, so I give major props to their angelic teachers.)
It’s no secret that there’s currently a national teacher shortage. And unfortunately, it is only projected to increase in the upcoming school years. That’s why it’s now more important than ever to show our current teachers how much we support and value their dedication to our children, at the very least during Teacher Appreciation Week.
I’ve put together a week’s worth of teacher appreciation ideas so us parents can show up for our teachers for five straight days—the way they show up for our kids every day of the school year.
Monday: Bring them Sustenance
Look, Monday mornings are hard for everyone. Even us parents look forward to dropping our kids off to school on Monday mornings so we can recharge kid-free for a bit and move on to our other life skills and tasks. But who do those kids get handed to? Our awesome teachers.
And yes, it’s their job, they signed up for it, etc. But unless you’ve been in a classroom with dozens of kids on a tired Monday morning and are just hoping to get the through the day successfully and accomplish all your learning tasks, it’s not as carefree as it sounds.
Therefore, when it comes to teacher appreciation ideas, more sustenance is always welcome:
- The more coffee, the merrier.
- Pick them up a cup of coffee on your way to morning drop-off.
- A smoothie from your favorite local smoothie shop.
- Muffins from your favorite local bakery.
- Make them a batch of your grandmother’s famous cookies.
- Bring them some leftover Easter candy you’re still hiding from your kids.
Or, just send in a good old-fashioned gift card. Then, they can pick it up for themselves on their way home. You can add a note that says, “Hoping your first day of the work week just got easier!”. I personally don’t know anyone who ever complained about an extra $5.00 to spend at Starbucks on their way home from work after a long Monday.
Tuesday: Write About Why You Value Them
Teachers love notes. They even teach our kids how to write notes for a grade. It’s a life-skill many teachers would argue is a dying art form. So a hand-written note telling them why you love having them as your child’s teacher and entrust your child’s future and education into their hands? Well, it might even bring some tears to their sweet eyes.
You can do this in a myriad of ways:
- Write a note and pop it in their office mailbox at school to find as a surprise while picking up their mail.
- Write a thank you-card and send it in with your child.
- Write on a small card attached to a pretty bouquet of flowers.
- Write about why you value their hard work for your kids on the inside cover of a book and gift it to them.
- The list goes on, but most importantly, handwrite the note so it’s personal.
Teachers—they keep everything. And those sweet handwritten notes filled with all the reminders validating why they’re a great teacher? They could just be the sweet calm on a stormy classroom day that helps them put their hero cape back on.
Wednesday: Volunteer Your Time
Teachers need help. Like, all the time. They’ll never turn down more hands helping out in their classroom. There’s a LOT of stuff that needs to get done. Trust me, I know firsthand.
Imagine that each classroom in your kids’ school is like a small business, and it’s selling “knowledge.” In every other profession, when a small business opens, there are a multitude of people operating it so it runs successfully. But individual classrooms don’t operate that way.
Sure, they have the tools and support from administration and school districts. But all the stuff that has to get done in “the small business classroom” so that the knowledge can be distributed? It all falls on the only person operating that business: the teacher. The prepping, copying, grading, organizing, etc., that only make up the small physical tasks teachers do, all falls on them.
Most of the time they’re stuck doing these smaller tasks during their prep hours and after school. They end up taking home curriculum planning and grading. So anytime someone else can pick up these smaller tasks so they can focus on the bigger ones is a huge help:
- Call or email your child’s teacher and ask if there are craft projects they need help with.
- Maybe you have a Cricut machine, and can offer to help make some crafted goods.
- Ask if there are any posters that need to be hung up.
- Find out if there are papers that need to be cut, copied, or stapled.
- Offer to help file classroom paperwork or organize books and classroom materials.
Or better yet? Organize a classroom parent volunteer system so that every parent in your kid’s classroom volunteers one hour a week in the classroom, aiding the teacher with those smaller tasks so they can get back to focusing on the bigger task at hand: planning out how to best educate our children.
Thursday: Donate Items For Their Classroom
You know all those classroom supplies our kids use that we mistakenly think the districts are providing for them? Most of that is actually purchased by the teacher with their personal money. This “small business classroom” is not only running itself single-handedly, but it’s also funding itself too—on an already limited budget.
I’m not talking about the textbooks which actually are purchased with our tax dollars. I’m talking about the scissors, glue sticks, crayons, paper, tissues, classroom library books, etc.:
- This doesn’t even have to cost much at all. We all have extra office and household supplies around the house, and can easily spare a couple boxes of tissues, construction paper, and glue sticks we purchased for our kids that still sit unused in our hall closets.
- Teachers also need book and magazine donations all the time for reading time, extra work, etc. Most libraries will offer book sales where they’re either selling for very cheap (I’m talking pennies) or just giving them away for free sometimes.
- If you want to take it even a step—and budget—further, you can purchase gift cards for teacher supply stores or teacher curriculum websites like Teachers Pay Teachers, Scholastic, etc.
One way or another, these items are all going to be purchased for our kids’ classrooms, either by us or their selfless teachers. So as parents, of course we can help lessen the financial load teachers are paying to educate our kids better.
Friday: Help Them Prioritize Self-Care
While they might physically be leaving their classrooms at the end of the day, I promise you, your kids don’t leave their teachers’ minds when they go home. Teachers actually dream about their students’ educational needs. They worry about them on the weekends. They think about their emotional needs long after they’ve left the building.
In fact when I was still teaching, I used to have a notepad in my nightstand I’d use for those REM sleep sessions where I miraculously problem-solved my students’ math test reteaching woes, or planned out a new lesson plan I didn’t want to forget—all while sleeping. And while showing heartwarming dedication, it can take a toll on one’s mental health.
That’s why any type of mental break for teachers is necessary. Help them relax beyond their duties in the classroom:
- You can make a self-care basket filled with spa items.
- Give a gift card to a nail salon or fill a small basket with nail polishes from the dollar store for a teacher you notice always has their nails painted.
- Give a movie theater gift card so they can watch a funny movie.
- For less than $5.00 from the grocery store, make a basket filled with goodies for their next at-home movie night.
- Give an experience to a mini-golf session, or a local painting or pottery class.
- Purchase an audio book subscription service they can listen to.
The sky is the limit for these teacher appreciation ideas depending on their specific interests. But most importantly, if we offer ways our teachers can prioritize their mental health and take an emotional break, they’ll be able to be better teachers to our kids.
We should never stop showing our teachers support. I hope this post gave you tons of ideas for offering support to our amazing teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week. Or, ongoing at any time of the year, really. We should never miss an opportunity to tell our awesome teachers thank you for the job they do.
And to any superhero teachers reading this, we genuinely can’t thank you enough for all the incredible and selfless work you do for our kids!