It is not something I pay much attention to.
Mostly, we get tchotchkes and a ton of junk food.
Yesterday, I got something better.
One of my former students who is now a Junior came by my room.
He gave me a cookie, a hug, a smile, and told me he appreciated me.
It was nice.
What was especially nice was that it was this kid.
This kid, let's call him Deon, came to my ninth grade ELA class as scared and fragile as anyone I have ever taught.
He had been home schooled the previous year because of earlier bullying.
He was painfully shy. His self-consciousness radiated off of him in waves.
He had a distinct stutter, so he rarely spoke and then barely above a whisper.
He wrote precise and vivid stories, essays, and poems.
He demonstrated incredible imagination and determination.
He read voraciously and widely.
Deon was a joy to have as a student: attentive, hard-working, well-prepared, skilled.
I worked hard to build a strong relationship with him and ensure my classroom was a safe, respectful place for him.
I made sure to provide him with meaningful feedback and eased him into speaking his mind to his peers.
And then I sat back and watched him bloom.
Two years later and he is still a stellar student. He is also a leader and an active member of the school newspaper staff.
If you had asked me last week, I probably would have said the only part I played in his success was recommending he join the school paper.
Then yesterday he gave me a cookie, a hug, a smile, and told me he appreciated me.
So maybe I helped him find himself and his happy place in high school.
Thank you Deon.
Thank you for recognizing me while we are still in the same building and I can hear your heart.
Thank you to all the students and parents and community members and colleagues and administrators who demonstrate appreciation every day by supporting our work as teachers.
Thank you to those who provide kids the opportunity to reflect and share their appreciation.
It is always a good thing to see your hard work as a teacher turn into a successful young person. That is the best appreciation there is.
It matters. It might be the only thing that really matters. #whyiteach #liveloveteach