Research says that gratitude is the strength that is most predictive of wellbeing; being able to recognise the goodness in our lives. The thing is that gratitude is a skill that we can teach our young children and one that needs to be continually practised. The really great news about gratitude is that it has benefits for both the person who shows their gratitude and the recipient of the gratitude who translates this as appreciation.
The end of the school year in Australia and New Zealand provides a perfect opportunity to help your child develop a sense of gratitude. What is it about your child's teacher that you have appreciated this year? Give yourself some time to think this through. When that idea is firmly tucked away, (or written down and popped in a safe place) start the conversation with your child about their teacher's strengths. This may be discussed in one session or it may need to be followed up over a couple of days, depending on your child's age and willingness to engage in conversation. It may be a good dinner table conversation. Here's some questions that may help your discussions:
What does your teacher do that.....
makes you laugh?
makes you feel welcome in your classroom?
encourages you to persist when you're finding learning tough?
shows she loves teaching?
shows she is a life-long-learner?
makes learning interesting/fun?
shows she cares for her students?
inspires your learning?
inspires your care for other students and teachers?
Obviously the depth of discussion will depend on the age of your child. For really young children perhaps just choose one question to discuss. The idea is to keep your child focussed on the teacher's strengths and qualities to develop their sense of gratitude. (It's easy for the conversation to move from the teacher to your child!)
The next step is to write a short thank you note to the teacher. Tell your child that it is important to do this after all the work the teacher has done to support their learning thoughout the year. Let your child choose some writing paper or a card that she thinks her teacher would like. For young children the message may be as simple as;
Dear Mrs Baker,
I love the way you read stories to us everyday.
Thanks for being a funny teacher.
Helping your child write a simple thank you is a wonderful task; it's a way to practise letter writing skills, to refine handwriting/typing skills and to teach the value of gratitude. When your child hands over their letter/card, they will also experience the joy of giving something that has truly been theirs to give; their ideas and their skills. And importantly, writing a letter of appreciation is a life skill. If your child tires when writing, the note can be written in short periods of time over several days.
At the same time, you too, could add a short note of gratitude. We know that parents are the primary educators of children but teachers do play a hugely significant part in our children's lives. This will be most appreciated by your child's teacher and provides an excellent model for your child. It also helps your child see that gratitude is a skill that continues to be practised throughout life.
Receiving a personalised thanks is worth so much more than any other gift; it provides an acknowledgement of a job well done in a way that really boosts morale and encourages the recipient to continue to play to their strengths. Carefully worded, positive feedback is a most beautiful gift. I know many teachers who have kept all the personalised thank you notes they have received. Expressing gratitude is a wonderful way to promote good will and harmony across your child's school; a win-win for students, parents and staff.