An End of Year Deal for Teachers

This essay was first featured on Huffington Post on June 5th, 2015.



The email was unexpected. And my reaction was one thousand times less excited than it would have been had our last name started with, oh… I don’t know… let’s say… any letter in the A through F range.

Next week, my son will be Star of the Week! Next week! One of the last weeks of school!


(It was actually more like “UUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH” with my head lamenting up to the heavens and my eyes rolling around like marbles.)

Here in Virginia, we are in school for two more weeks. TWO. MORE. WEEKS. (Even though most of us parents were done about a week and a half ago, if not more.)

Thankfully, Teacher Appreciation Week was in the beginning of May — appropriately, when the end of the year was in sight, yet we were still able to focus enough to acknowledge their hard work.

Much like end of the year testing, even Teacher Appreciation at our school is now standardized. No more luck-of-the-draw for the teacher who gets the mom who loves to create Pinterest-worthy crafts or the child whose parent is a CEO and wants to give out $100 gift cards. Now, parents “appreciate” by following a set of guidelines and giving the agreed upon Flower on Monday, Tea on Tuesday, Treat on Wednesday, etc.

I protested the appreciation uniformity on “Write a note Friday” by using my words.

I wrote my childrens’ teachers notes. The handwritten kind on little cards. It didn’t take me long, but I meant every word I said. I am grateful for what they do each and every day. I wanted them to know it.

In particular, I am thankful for the experience my son is having in his Kindergarten class. His first exposure to the rest of his school life is stimulating, challenging and fun. His teacher is NAILING it. I wanted her to know what I thought.

Yet, I didn’t think about her remarkable calm with 22 little crazies or her creative instructions giving them imperceptible but necessary structure when I got her email about my son being Star of the Week. Instead, I thought about myself and whined<em> I don’t want to do it!</em>

I stalled until I got this email from her, addressing my Teacher Appreciation note — (the same week as her Star of the Week notice):

I just wanted to let you know how much your words meant to me. I’ve never been written anything so kind or heartfelt. In fact, the card brought me to tears so much that I called my mom and told her what you said! It is one of those things that I am going to have framed because it felt like one of the greatest things I might hear in my career. So thank you so, so much, from the bottom of my heart. That card meant the absolute world to me!! *

Okay, teachers — you continue to make me love you. And I want to make a deal with you.

We parents will hold it together because you are holding it together.

Parents, I think we need to dig deep, because the teachers are digging deep. (They have to be looking forward to the end of the year as much as we are, right?) And if you have five minutes, write a note to tell them how you feel. Our teachers do a stellar job; a note of encouragement should not be a rarity.

Teachers, I will confess I’m not at my prime this time of year. But I’ll have my son do the best Star of the Week poster he can (even if we end up starting it the night before it’s due). For what it’s worth, I will also send my kids to you rested and fed and ready to learn for the remainder of the year.

I’ll do this because it’s a way to show you how much I appreciate and value your work — the <em>whole</em> year through.

Of course, the night before the poster was due, my printer decided to do this:


(I’m doing my best, Teacher! I really am!)

* Excerpt from a personal email, used with permission by the teacher.

Sonya Spillmann

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