Five Things This Parent Wishes Teachers Knew

Dear Teachers:

1. I actually love school supplies – fun pens, crisp paper, color-coordinated file folders with labels printed out on my label maker. (Bird!) However, I hate buying or trying to find those school supplies on the school-provided list. You know, the composition notebook of which my child will only use 10 pages during the entire school year. The three three-subject notebooks with plastic cover and non-perforated pages of which my child will never use all the pages. Or the specific brand of watercolors that are not found anywhere near this side of Middle Earth.

2. You may think the extra credit for bringing in extra boxes of facial tissue or extra disinfectant wipes is a great way to restock your classroom supply, but I would rather you offer extra credit for actual academic work. Make a request for the supplies or wait for that first wave of strep throat cases and then make the request. Timing is everything.

3. By middle school I would really appreciate not having to buy anymore markers or colored pencils. In fact, teachers who tell my children that their pencil case filled to the seams with a hodgepodge of colored pencils from years past will not do go on my naughty list. The same goes for teachers who tell my children that they need to bring a NEW notebook to replace the 70-page notebook they used last year (and by used I mean the first five pages of the notebook). The same goes for any recycled/pre-used school supplies I send with my kids. They should get bonus points for reusing!

3.5. I have a teacher naughty list. Read on because I have a nice list, too.

4. If my child speaks of you with respect, admiration and teacher-crush tendencies I will send homemade granola or the occasional baked treat because my kids desperately need teachers who “speak” to their minds, hearts, and character.

5. Every year I pray for you because during the week there are many days you see my children longer than I will. Teachers and administrators like Ms. Johnson, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Umlauf, Mr. Studt, Mr. Ciskie, Mr. Lyons, and Mr. Benenfeld made an impact on me and my family, shaping me in profound ways. For a kid who was put into ESL in kindergarten, was bullied and teased all through elementary and high school, and couldn’t wait to get the heck out of town and never see some of her classmates ever again, it’s a hoot to be an author, paid public speaker, and minister. I pray for you teachers because any one of you  might be the teacher my children and I will talk about when my children send my grandchildren to school.

Thank you.


Teacher Appreciation: You’re Never Too Old to Thank a Teacher

Sure, they get summers “off” and if they work in the same school district as their children attend attend school they “share” vacation days. Yes, their workday “ends” with the final bell.

But I actually don’t know those teachers. I remember seeing my teachers working part-time jobs in the mall during summers. I spent more hours after school with many of my teachers than I did with my own family. And I finally figured out that those days off that I got as a student were work days for my teachers.

This week as the parent of a child in the high school, middle school and grade school, I’ve received volunteer notices for teacher appreciation events sponsored by amazing parents who are involved in the schools. My contribution will be cases of water for one of the luncheons.

But I am thankful for each one of my kids’ teachers. My hope and prayer is that each one of my kids will have teachers who make a subject become a passion or make a bad day of adolescent survival better. Not every school district or teacher gets a luncheon this week, but each of us can thank a teacher.

I am thankful for:

Miss Chioles, my kindergarten teacher at Waters Elementary School, Chicago. I remember her black hair and red nail polish, and I remember how she didn’t ignore the Asian girl who couldn’t speak English.

The librarian at Waterbury Elementary School. I’m so sorry I can’t remember your name right now. You introduced me to science fiction through Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” and took a bunch of us to Wheaton College to hear her speak. I still have my signed copy, and L’Engle’s “Two Part Invention” makes me laugh out loud.

Mr. Weinberger, my elementary/junior high school band teacher…at least I think that is his name. He didn’t see us as a bunch of kids. He saw us as musicians. And when he picked out music for solo & ensemble contests I thought he was crazy. I think I can still play part of that piece from memory.

Mr. Studt, my speech team coach at Lake Park High School. He was brutally honest with me. He told me I didn’t have a future as an actress, but I could kick butt as a orator. He taught me about pacing, using the stage, eye contact, inflections, gesturing, and research. He taught me about the power of my voice.

Mrs. Umlauf, my first journalism advisor at Lake Park High School. She handed back to me my first red-marker massacred news story assignment and eventually asked me back to lead the sports section. I was hooked. She taught me about the power of words.

Mr. Ciske, my second journalism advisor at LHS. He made producing an unappreciated high school newspaper fun, and he inspired me to peak after high school. He also taught me the value of respect by respecting me not as a student but as a journalist.

Ms. Steinbring, my photography class teacher at LHS. She made me see that a world in black and white was incredibly beautiful and worth the patience. She was also my class council advisor; she made leading fun.

Who were the teachers you appreciate(d) the most? What did they teach you?