The Best Teacher Appreciation Gift

It’s teacher appreciation week and all across the country, appreciative parents are looking for ways to express their gratitude (at least, that’s what I tell myself). The best teacher appreciation gift I ever received cost the giver nothing but 10 minutes of her time. If you want to make a teacher’s day this week, do what she did:


1. Sit down with your children and ask them who their favorite teachers are. 

2. Ask them, “What are three things you like about this teacher?” 

3. Write an email to those teachers and tell them what your child told you.

4. Click the little CC button and enter the email addresses of the teacher’s principal and the district’s superintendent. 

5. Share this idea with five other parents.


That’s it. No trip to the store. No Internet searches. No dollars spent. As Bob Newby says:

A complimentary email that is copied to the teacher’s supervisors is the best gift any teacher can receive because

1. Teachers don’t get a lot of appreciation. Part of that is because employees in general don’t receive a lot of appreciation for their work. Part of it is because a teacher’s work is not very visible to anyone except students. Teachers often have no idea whether what they’re doing is appreciated by anyone because no one tells them.

2. Most principals know far less about their teachers than you think. Principals are busy people and few of them spend a lot of time in classrooms. When they do visit, they tend to come in, see a little teaching, and leave. I don’t blame them for this. Their presence is uncomfortable for both the principal and the teacher, especially when the visits are infrequent.

Because they don’t directly observe teachers for long periods of time, most of their judgments are formed from circumstantial evidence. They walk past Mrs. Clark’s room and it’s always quiet, and since Mrs. Clark never sends kids to the office, they assume Mrs. Clark has excellent classroom management. Mr. Hocking’s line on the way to gym is always disjointed and loud, so Mr. Hocking’s management probably needs work, which means his students probably aren’t learning as much as they could be. Test scores look good from Ms. Irving’s class, so they assume she’s an effective instructor. Joyce’s car is always in the parking lot before everyone else’s and she’s the last to leave at night, so she’s assumed to be more dedicated than her colleagues.

And principals hear things, from students, from other teachers, and from parents who call to complain (because more call to complain than to praise). The things they hear color their opinions of their teachers, but they’re only getting part of the story.

All of this results in a portrait of a teacher that may or may not be true. Principals don’t know a lot of what goes on in classrooms on a day-to-day basis, and unless someone tells them, they’re likely missing some important pieces. They don’t know that Timmy hated school last year but likes it a whole lot more this year because of his teacher’s winning personality. They’ll never hear how Mr. Johnson took the time to counsel one of his students about a personal issue and the difference that made. They have no way of knowing that Cassandra likes math now because of the way her teacher teaches it. They’re missing pieces of the puzzle, and unless someone gives them those pieces, they’ll never have the whole picture.

So tell them.

When you write an email to your child’s teacher and you copy the principal on that email, the principal has an opportunity to add more detail to the image she’s created in her mind about your child’s teacher. She has the opportunity to learn things she would otherwise not. When evaluation time comes around, she will be able to consider more factors into her assessment and the evaluation will be fairer. And that’s something all teachers appreciate.




I am, once again, partnering with Angela Watson to help promote her 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s an online professional development program that has already helped more than 32,000 teachers take control of their time and stay focused on what matters most. The next cohort starts in July, and the Club has been updated to cover emerging best practices for the changes ahead. Click here to join!

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