When does your child’s school year end? Perhaps student holidays begin in June as they do in much of Canada and the U.S. Or maybe the last day of class is in July like it is in parts of Switzerland. Alternatively, you and your family might be in the Southern Hemisphere and December is when you prep for summer break, as it’s done in Australia.
Whatever your region, there’s a time when goodbyes to peers can bring much feeling to students – all kinds of feelings and emotions. Friends are part of the dynamic of school life and we humans love connection. The ending of a school academic year is very significant in the life of a child, preteen or teen.
The end of a school year is also a busy time for parents and teachers alike. There’s a kind of familiar routine to the transition at the closure to a school year.
Excitement for holidays.
Grandma’s upcoming visit.
“Staycation” intentions planned out.
But hang on! Before diving into all your plans and intentions, isn’t there a particular relationship, in a particular place and at a particular time worth appreciating before rushing towards the holidays and the anticipation of the next school year ahead? Who? Where? When? These are the eternally interesting question words that invite stories to be told time and time again as you remember your time in school in the coming years…but only if you stop to notice them once in a while.
The Guide, the Place, the Time
With whom has your child spent countless hours in a learning mentorship and under supervisory guidance for the past ten or so months? What room has served as a positive learning space for your child to flourish? What developmental stage, day, week or month has your child experienced excitement or passion in their learning?
If you think these kinds of questions don’t matter much, think again. If you’ve focused on what’s been all “wrong” about this past academic year, it might be a good experience to reflect a little longer to see if there was a glimmer of good in a difficult school year. For many people, two very powerful and influential reference points in life are: (1) family and (2) school.
Try out these three reflection questions to test your own memory of your K-12 school life:
- Do you remember a moment in which you truly felt seen and heard by a teacher at school?
- Was there a grade or classroom in which you excelled at something? The award? The applause? The compliment? Or..?
- What wholehearted educator supported you through challenging times at school?
Sometimes a walk down memory lane reminds us of our own stories about ourselves. The stories you pick to focus on can make all the difference in life. Seeking the positive and empowering moments from your own schooling can remind you of strengths long-forgotten and passions long-ignored.
Sing Your Praise of a Teacher
There’s a song called “Sing” by the band Travis in which there’s a line that goes:
For the love you bring won’t mean a thing, unless you sing.
Although the band was likely not singing about students and teachers, the song is a great reminder about how important it is to communicate our appreciation if it’s to be known by others. Attitude is also a key motivator (or hindrance) on our learning path in life. Low, negative attitude versus a higher, positive point of view? I’ll take the latter, thanks! Positive language is a kind of love that you can bring to our schools. No doubt it’s very nourishing for teachers too.
Before your child begins the holiday break at the end of the school year, why not sing your praises of a teacher by appreciating something specific about that one special educator who has been side by side, shoulder-to-shoulder with your child this past year? Even the most small and seemingly insignificant thing is worthy of appreciation when it comes to acknowledging the positive contribution a teacher has made to your child’s optimal development.
In the future, you (and your child) may find that one small, good memory will come back to you later in life and remind you of your capacity for feeling good and for learning. Positive memories can be lasting if we want them to be. It’s all about relationships in schools, as it is in life. Seeking the positive in relationships is a valuable life skill that you can introduce to your child as they end a school year. If you’re feeling up for the challenge, try sharing some positive teacher memories from your own schooling life with your child.
Alice’s Positive K-12 Teacher Memories
Eternal gratitude to Ms. Simpson, my second, third and fourth grade teacher, who taught me during a difficult time in my young life. Your patience, perseverance and close eye on me made a huge difference, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
Thank you to Mr Shoub, my fifth grade teacher, who gave me a life-long love of singing songs by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Rolling Stones (among others). Although your time teaching me was short, I still hold strong memories of singing with you and being part of a great class community.
Dearest Mr Prevost. You were such a generous teacher. Camping trips, hikes, hands-on learning, critical thought, creativity, and INCLUSION for all of us in the sixth grade. I felt and witnessed your heart-centeredness. You brought me face to face with my academic weaknesses with sensitivity and support. I CAN do it!
Sometimes it just has to be seen and experienced to understand that principals are teachers too. To the late Mr Rooney, I wish I could have thanked you in person, as a grown-up, for what you did for me when I was struggling with my sister’s cancer diagnosis. I remember you coming to our house and reading a story to my sister and I. I remember we laughed. It was just what I needed.
Diane. I learned to take action in my own learning with you. Your skill and understanding of teaching seventh grade students was masterful. I finally understood that my peer relationships and choices mattered after your guidance. I got it. Thank you.
Chère Madame Fellenz. Thank you for noticing my ear for languages. If you hadn’t, I might not have discovered my ideal major at university! French changed my life and has allowed me to find great employment opportunities, travel the world and communicate more deeply and cross-culturally with some wonderful people that make my life more joyful. Merci mille fois!
And finally, to the late Mr Mason. If only you knew I began to really like math and science because of you. Although I never took your physics class, I secretly wished I’d had the courage to do so. Your sense of humour was delightful to me.
Take Action and Contact the Teacher
Is there a teacher who has made a real difference in your child’s learning this academic year? Then sing your praises! Send them a note, a letter or visit them in person. I promise you, teachers have much gratitude when receiving authentic words of praise and gratitude from a parent (or a student) about their contributions – even if it was only in some very small way. The small things are often the diamonds.