When the truth feels so good: Writing a Thank-you Note to the Teacher
December 2009 update:
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It’s the end of the school year. Many of you are saying, “thank goodness.” But let’s not forget to say “thank-you” to the teachers.
We’ve talked about gratitude and 10 great ways to say thank-you to teachers in the past, but I bring it up again since we are in the home stretch– Spring Fever is just about to turn into Summer Fervor in many parts of the world. Our minds might be on getting out but there is something we must do first.
Teachers, coaches, instructors, tutors and mentors have worked hard this year. You might not have always loved them, you may not have always agreed with them, but all of us can come up with a list of ways that they’ve been helpful. Think for a moment about the times when they went out of their way for you or your children. Think of all lessons they’ve taught your children. How did they show their understanding? How did they share their knowledge? How did they make something a little easier for you—and yet made your children challenge themselves in ways that they couldn’t have done themselves?
What to write in a thank-you note to the teacher:
Be specific: When writing a thank-you letter to the teacher, don’t fall back on overused phrases and colloquialisms. It’s important to customize the thank-you letter, so that it can only be for that one person—that teacher—impossible to interchange with another. What is it about that teacher that you appreciate?
Refrain from saying things like “Thank you for teaching class to my child. He learned a lot.”
Instead, write something like “I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your hard work this year. You should be congratulated for the innovative lesson plans you created. Johnny particularly liked your science experiment with the potato and the match. He still talks about it today.”
Use Stationary or Cards that Allows you to Express Yourself: Pre-written thank-you cards with fancy writing and a make-shift poem doesn’t really say a lot about you or the teacher.
- Choose a blank card where you can write your own thoughts.
- Buy or make some stationary with your child.
- Fold a piece of card stock in half and have your child draw a picture on the front especially for the teacher.
- When a group is involved, you can get creative! Take some pictures and use that to decorate your note of thanks. For example, check out this cute idea…
Use a Nice, Respectful Greeting: Don’t just write the message. Start with a formal greeting. People often forget to this in our “rush, rush” world. Or worse yet—they use something like “Hi” of “Hey.” As my mother used to say to me, “Hey is for horses, Robyn, start with a nice greeting.” And remember, people’s favorite word in the world? Their name. Something like “Dear Coach Suzie” will work fine.
Use your own handwriting: While you might not think it looks as nice as a type-written note, handwritten notes always beat out any font. It’s personal! Put pen to paper and take your time. The teacher will certainly appreciate it.
Be gracious: For those of you who have loved this year’s teacher or coach, the toughest part might be finding just a few lines to sum it up. For those of you who had a frustrating year with a teacher, the toughest part might be finding something nice to say. You may have had a tough time with this teacher and you may not have appreciated all of his or her choices, but there must be something you can be thankful for this year.
Again, refrain from, “I’m writing to say thank-you. You were helpful and fun. We appreciate it.”
Instead say, “We are so thrilled that you were Laura’s teacher this year. Thank-you for taking the time to help her with her math homework—she had been struggling until you taught her those little “tricks.” It really made a difference as you know!”
Talk about how the lessons will influence your child: The lessons your child learns don’t lose their impact when your child walks out the door. They stick with your child. The best teacher or coach will have taught lessons that last indefinitely. I still remember the teachers that taught me to believe in myself and cite them often in my presentations and trainings. Be sure to recognize these important feats.
Refrain from saying; “We’ll remember you fondly.”
And instead, say something like;
Peter will always remember when you said; “You have terrific, creative ideas—write them down because they’ll help a lot of people one day.” He now has a journal filled with ideas for inventions and experiments he wants to do. Because of you, he has taken such an interest in learning that will stick with him always.
Talk about the past and the future: The teacher has been helping your child for quite some time! Especially when dealing with a retiring teacher or a coach/instructor who has been part of your child’s life for a long time, it’s important to talk about the beginning. What did you think when you first met this person? What did your child think?
Refrain from saying; “Chris was glad he got you as his coach. He hopes to see you next year.”
Instead say: Chris liked you from the moment he met you. He said to me; “Mr. Don is so cool!” You certainly did not disappoint! He told me yesterday, “I want to make sure we see Mr. Don this summer and join his class when he starts in September again!” We’ll certainly be there when you start up classes again in the Fall—and we’ll be there this Summer for the school bash!
Even if your child is continuing classes throughout the summer, like many Powerful Words Member programs such as martial arts, gymnastics, swim, or dance, it’s important to take time to thank them for the work they’ve already done this year—just tell them that you’ll see them tomorrow or next week in class instead of next year!
Thank them again: After all, this is the point of the note!
Sign it: Believe it or not, people forget. Be sure to let them know who you are! Be gracious and sign it kindly.
Refrain from signing it:
And instead sign it with one of these and your name:
- With Kind regards
- Warmest regards
- Yours truly
- Best regards
- Our deepest thanks
- Love (in certain cases)
And this should go without saying—I certainly hope it does—don’t email it! Send the letter through the snail mail or give it directly to the person. It’s personal and many teachers, coaches, and educators want to keep these things in files, up on their desk, or in a special place where they can look at it.
Here’s to gratitude—we love our educators!