Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Blessing the Teacher


One of the bittersweet moments of December was bidding farewell to one of our favorite elementary school teachers. As the gifted education teacher, Mrs. Wilson poured herself into her students -- appreciating them for their unique gifts and personalities; challenging them to stretch their minds; and encouraging them to reach their full potential in the classroom and beyond. Christian was one of Mrs. Wilson's fourth-grade students, and their last class was quite emotional for teacher and students alike. Another mother and I planned a farewell celebration during their last meeting. We prepared cupcakes, cheese straws and punch for Mrs. Wilson and took a picture of her with the class to fit a signed picture frame.

It seems to me the best gift a teacher could receive at the end of her career would be to know that she made a difference in the lives of her students. I asked the children seated at their desks, "If Mrs. Wilson has helped you stretch your mind, if she has taught you new things, if she has made your life at Wetumpka Elementary School better, will you please stand up?" All the children rose. One by one we went around the classroom, letting each child speak to Mrs. Wilson before taking his or her seat. I printed a dozen quotes about teachers, and each student read one and then shared thoughts on Mrs. Wilson.

The quotes the children read follow, but the real treasure came from the hearts of the children. The first boy I approached bowed his head bashfully when I asked him to read a quote, so I didn't want to pressure him to speak. I read his quote and asked him if he had anything he wanted to share. He looked at the floor for a moment, then said quietly, "Mrs. Wilson is the nicest teacher I've ever had." It was difficult to maintain composure as one by one these 9- and 10-year-olds shared their hearts with Mrs. Wilson. One little girl paused after reading her quote, then said, "I never knew I was important until I took that test in second grade and met you." And another revealed, "I didn't think I was smart until you showed me how big my brain could be." It was truly a privilege to witness this experience between a beloved teacher and her students, and I hope it showed Mrs. Wilson that the time she has given children these many years has been a worthy investment.

Teachers are grossly underpaid for their investment of time and energy, but they make the world vastly richer for their efforts. Thank you, teachers!

Thoughts on Teachers

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." ~ Henry Brooks Adams

"A good teacher is like a candle -- it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~ Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it." ~ Margaret Fuller

"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child." ~ Carl Jung

"What a teacher writes on the blackboard of life can never be erased." ~ Author Unknown

"The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." ~ Kahlil Gibran

"Often, when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher. That is, I used to, until she got an unlisted number." ~ Author Unknown

"A truly special teacher is very wise, and sees tomorrow in every child's eyes." ~ Author Unknown

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." ~ Mark Van Doren

"Teachers who inspire realize there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how we use them." ~ Author Unknown

"Teaching is leaving a vestige of one self in the development of another. And surely the student is a bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures." ~ Eugene P. Bertin

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." ~ William Arthur Ward

What are your ideas for blessing teachers? And if you are a teacher, I would love to know what tokens of appreciation have meant the most to you.



Valerie said...

Hi Melissa! Your post brought tears to my eyes. I am a former classroom teacher who now stays at home.

I must say, it's the little things...the exact things you do that always meant the most to me. I had a parent (interestingly, she was originally from the South!) who showered me (as well as her 3rd grade daughter!) with love and affection.

At the beginning of the year, she sent a list to me that said, "Mrs. Kueter's Favorite Things" and then listed things like B&B Works (favorite scent), Favorite Cookie, Favorite Candybar, Favorite Stores to Shop At, etc. Little blanks were next to each listed item, which I was supposed to fill out and return. Throughout the year, this mother and daughter would surprise me with little tokens of their affection on my desk. At the end of the year, she gave me a scrapbook of memories from throughout the school year.

Another year, my lead teacher (when I was a student teacher) gifted me with a handmade student "quilt". It was the sweetest thing. Each block was a student-drawn portrait of themselves with their first name underneath their picture. When I would be out of the room, she would get out their transferable tracing paper and give each student a compact mirror. Fifteen years later, I STILL treasure that gift. She used "ruler" ribbon across the top for hanging and created a giant "pencil" from a dowel rod. Priceless!

Please know that parents like you are far and few...we wish their were more "Mrs. Lester"s in the world!!!

Melissa Lester said...

Valerie, I love these ideas! I am going to remember the favorite things list. It is fun to surprise teachers, but even better when you know you are giving them something they will love. And the quilt -- what a treasure!

classicms said...

Melissa, I had the privilege of being the granddaughter and daughter of school teachers, and now have the pleasure of being the mother of a teacher. When my mother died I was amazed at how many of her former students took the time to come and pay their respect, and share their memories of how she contributed to their lives. I now see how special my daughter feels when parents of her students take the time to tell her what she is doing "right" for their children, and just how important simple acts of kindness are to teachers. This Christmas my daughter confided that her best teacher gifts were those that the children made themselves. She very much appreiciates the store gift cards and other parent gifts of aprreciation, but the excitement of the children when they present a gift they've made is so precious to her. And most touching was a surprise visit to her classroom from one of her "graduates" who is now in Middle School. It seems that after two years, this young boy is now already taller than my daughter, but still wanted to come back and say hello.
Thank you for your kindness to teachers, and for including such wonderful suggestions for showing appreciation. MM

Pam e said...

I have seen a similar idea with the quotes but each is accompanied by a small item to represent it. You help me if I'm hurt (bandaids, You help me made "cents" of things (small bag of pennies), I can count on you (abacus), etc. Each child brings up one item to the teacher along with the gift. Also, one room mom made an amazing gift of a beautiful large vase partially filled with sand and tied with a giant ribbon. Each child's parent wrote a note to the teacher (if they chose to)and it was scrolled, tied, and put in the vase. Love love your blog!!

Hite said...

Valerie, I love these ideas! I am going to remember the favorite things list. It is fun to surprise teachers, but even better when you know you are giving them something they will love. And the quilt -- what a treasure!

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