On the first day of school, a letter to my child’s teacher

On the first day of school, a letter to my childs teacher

I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but today you become one of the most important people in my life. You are the one. The one who I’ve entrusted to take care of my girl in my absence. The one who I’ve tasked with teaching her things that I cannot. The one who will make an indelible mark on her little soul that will forever shape her perspective of learning.

This is a difficult transition for our family because until this moment in her life, it’s been her Dad and me who’ve made these impressions. We fail and fall short each and every day, but everything we’ve done has been done with great love. Now, we’ll share our influence with you, and we hope that you understand your significance in her life.

These are the things we ask of you as we place our most precious gift in your hands:

Love her

We are sending her to you to learn reading and writing and arithmetic, but greater than her need for any academic pursuit is her need to be loved and cherished. Take the time to see her unique gifts and her unique challenges. You cannot love her if you don’t know her, and although your day is undoubtedly filled with a to-do list longer than anyone realizes, make this one first on your list. She will learn far more from someone who delights in her than someone who doesn’t. Show her that there are other adults in the world besides her parents who will love her, who she can trust, who will advocate for her, who see the good in her and will help her along this journey of life.

Encourage her

Although it’s easily lost in the day-to-day shuffle, remember the weight that your words carry. Our teachers carry incredible power in their words, and in many ways they tell us who we are and who we will become. Use your words wisely. Use them to encourage and empower her, to build her confidence. Open her eyes wide with the excitement of learning. Be the teacher who shows her that learning brings with it a world of adventure. More important than any lesson you can plan is to teach her to love learning. It’s the one lesson that will stay with her forever.

Teach kindness and respect

I know you will be focused on reaching academic milestones, but also know that more than any letter on a report card, I desire for my child to learn to live well with others. I tell her that she is special and wonderfully made, but she also needs to know that each and every other child around her is, too. Demand respect from her for yourself and for her peers, and do not accept anything less. Guide her to be patient and kind. Care for her and teach her to care for others.

Know how much we appreciate your sacrifice

Please know that I understand how much I am asking of you. I know that you stand in between these walls each and every day not in search of financial or professional rewards, but because you care about my child and many others. While you may feel undervalued by the rest of the world, please know that you are incredibly valued by our family. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made to spend your days with my little one. Thank you for all of the time, money and effort you spend preparing lesson plans, decorating your classroom, obtaining supplies that the school can’t provide. Those hours that you’ve spent that no one knows about and no one pays you for are not spent in vain.

You are investing in the future of my child, and for that I am forever grateful.

Courtney Schmidt is medical communications editor, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Orlando, FL. She blogs at Illuminate.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • Suzi Q 38

    You have written such a nice heartfelt letter that I do not have much to add. I am sure your daughter’s teacher will appreciate it greatly, as teachers are so undervalued in our country and society.

    I do want to add, as a mother of two adult children, that your child(ren)
    may spend more time with their teacher than with you. This is especially true if both parents are working full time. With that in mind, choose your children’s teachers wisely. Their temperament and personality may have a lasting effect on your child. They definitely will have an influence, either good or bad. Most are good, but just like the general population, some are not and should not be in teaching.

    The parents are the child’s first and best teacher. Since there are other children in the class, the one on one time with your child will be divided by 25 or 32 and be “fleeting.” Know what is the curriculum, ask your child for papers from their day, and help them do their homework.
    Also, if you have textbooks, preview the upcoming chapters of all core subjects, especially after grade 2.

    When time permits, ask if you can help in the classroom. Different schools and teachers have different policies on this. This is not only helpful to the teacher, but you get an idea of how well your child is doing and what h/she needs to learn. You are your child’s best “tutor.”

    Celebrate education in your home. If there was a good report card or similar event, we celebrated by going out to dinner as a family. We let the child pick the restaurant.

    I would also buy gift cards to Staples, Michaels, Target, or Walmart for the teachers of my children on: The teacher’s birthday, Teacher’s Day, in December for the Winter Holiday, and in June before the summer break.

    In middle school, it was well known that if I received information from any teacher who let me know if my child was misbehaving or not “on track,”
    I gave them a gift card for $25.00 and a thank you note.

    The teachers use the gift cards to buy much needed school supplies.

  • PrimaryCareDoc

    No offense, but it’s not the teacher’s job to love your kid and to teach kindness and to empower and encourage her. Those are your jobs, as a parent.

    Teachers have to put up with enough crap these days, and they have less time and less funding to do it with. Please don’t ask them to “love” your child. That’s nuts.

  • kidmodel

    Nice letter. My take:

    The last paragraph should be the first. The teacher will know right off the bat that this is a caring mom. The gut-wrenching, first ‘drop off/kiss goodbye’ whether it’s for a few hours or the entire day when both mom and dad work long day is a rite of passage for families everywhere. But the first admonition is misguided. Parents must NOT ASSUME OR EXPECT that anyone other than grandparents, will ‘love’ their child. The teacher (any teacher) should be invested in the student’s development within the confines of scholastic environs – and nothing more. Don’t expect your child’s teacher/babysitter/daycare employee/karate-ballet-gymnastics-whatever worker to ‘love’ them. That is OUR JOB exclusively! I will hope that their teachers will see their young mind and respect it. I will expect the teacher to provide the best of their professional skills within the context of the school day and the curriculum. When my child returns home each day – everything else is again, MY job. Suzy Q mention offers the admonition to ‘choose your children’s teachers wisely’. This is not always possible OR even desirable. In little ones, obviously a cranky or mean spirited teacher must be avoided lest young spirits be diminished. However, as parents we must resist the urge (and it’s a strong, innate urge to be sure!) to direct the choice of teacher. Someday, our beloved child will have a less-than stellar college-professor or boss. We aren’t doing them any favors by taking charge of and orchestrating teacher selection at each step in the educational process. Our kids won’t ALWAYS get the ‘best’, ‘nicest’ teacher, but they will always be our best kids, so we must arm them with the skills (obey class rules, respectful behavior in school, you know – the stuff we learned as kids) they’ll need to succeed to do well in school and in LIFE circumstances. At the end of the day, instillation of good study habits, providing a time and place for homework, offering regular and proper nutrition, enforcing healthy sleep behaviors and ensuring appropriate play and recreation time go a LONG way to easing school transitions in the early years. These, and the countless moments during the day in which which tell our children “I love you”, are what make the difference.

    To moms and dads of little ones everywhere: PUT DOWN the smart phones. These ubiquitous devices are stealing you from your child more than ANY less-than perfect teacher. Be present in each moment with your precious child and request that teachers do the same. Simple, no-brainer? Yet look around…….

    • Suzi Q 38

      “……Suzy Q mention offers the admonition to ‘choose your children’s teachers wisely’. This is not always possible OR even desirable. In little ones, obviously a cranky or mean spirited teacher must be avoided lest young spirits be diminished. However, as parents we must resist the urge (and it’s a strong, innate urge to be sure!) to direct the choice of teacher….”

      I have been lucky enough to be able to choose most of my children’s teachers through elementary school. Sometimes, there wasn’t much of a choice. I didn’t choose the ones who were sugar-sweet…I chose the one who provided a solid curriculum, taught phonics in the face of a district who promoted “whole language,” and were fairly strict disciplinarians. For example, our children’s kindergarten teacher had over 30 years of experience, and she was tough.
      I remember her looking at my son in front of me, and telling him “D, I was NOT pleased with what you did. GO sit on the rug.” LOL.

      As far as resisting the urge with respect to selecting a teacher…good point. I liked selecting the teacher whenever possible, because I knew which teachers were better for my children. The point you make for not being able to select your boss is fine for the workplace. When you think about it, we select teachers for high school and college as well.

      I remember in high school my daughter went to a summer school Algebra class where the teacher had missed a day a week the first 3 weeks. She also allowed them to play cards.
      My daughter knows the difference between learning and “playing,” so she asked me to allow her to drop the class.
      I stopped my the principals office to see what could be done.
      He opened another class with a another math teacher who was much better.

      When you are dealing with teachers just like any other population….there are the good and the bad…A teacher you would not like for your child is great for another child.

      I say “choose wisely” because doing so is important.
      After all, they are in school 6-8 hours a day.

  • JD

    While I appreciate the sentiment, I think it is important to have some perspective. Most kids spend somewhere between 11-14% of their time in school, somewhere around 33% of time sleeping, and presumably the remaining 50+ % with family/friends. Furthermore, while in school, a child does not have undivided attention from the teacher. Rather, the child shares that attention with 15-30 other kids. The fact is, while teachers get both credit and blame for how kids develop and behave, their influence should be minimal compared to the influence of family and friends.

Most Popular