Things I Know 274 of 365: Letters make great teacher gifts

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

– William James

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making some suggestions of possible sources of gifts for the teachers in your life. Some will be products for purchase. Some will be ideas of things to make. All of them will be meant to help remember teachers as worthy of thanks.

It sits on the shelf in my bedroom – a manilla folder that should be a box, but whose contents I haven’t taken the time transfer. The tab of the folder bears the faded name of a former student, but the work inside isn’t his.

If I were to give it a name, I’d go with something like, “The Good Stuff.” This is the folder that holds the notes and letters received from students over the last eight years. I don’t have them all, but I have enough.

When I was teaching, this file lived in a drawer in my classroom. On days when I felt like the last thing I should be doing with my life or to the lives of my students was teaching, I’d flip through it and convince myself there must be some good there.

The folder inspired my annual end-of-year assignment that asked students to write a letter to a teacher who had inspired them giving an update on their lives and letting them know the impact their teaching made.

The folder is also what inspires my recommendation for a holiday gift for a teacher. Write a letter – a real letter – letting them know the effect they’ve had in your life or your child’s life. The only thing it will cost you is time, but it will be more valuable to the receiving teacher than you can know.

Take it a step further, write a letter of appreciation about the teacher and send it to the principal.

One of my favorite parts of having my students write their inspiring teachers was the chance to write letters to my own. Even if you are not a student or the parent of a student, consider giving the gift of a letter of appreciation this year to a teacher who’s made a positive impact in your life.

I know from experience how much those letters can mean and how their contents can sustain us in moments of doubt.


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