Flipping the Script: How Students Can Help Teachers Right Now | Liza Garonzik | 5 Min Read

May 24, 2022

We all know that the best teachers make every student feel seen and valued. But what if part of being great students at the end of this year meant making your teachers feel seen and valued, too? 

This idea feels especially powerful as schools face the Great Teacher Resignation; hard-earned thank-you’s from students can help teachers see their impact. I am not suggesting that a student-driven thank-you campaign become a strategic bribe to keep teachers teaching or a method for shaming teachers who are leaving—the #transitioningteachers swirl on LinkedIn might leap to that—but just as a simple acknowledgment of a difficult job well done. 

Here’s the other thing: asking students to thank and acknowledge the impact of their teachers wouldn’t just benefit teachers. The science of gratitude is real, and the act of thanking teachers can also help students process and punctuate yet another challenging year. 

It has the potential to be a win-win, but success here requires structure. Here are four tips for parents or advisors who want to structure a student-to-teacher thank-you campaign between now and the end of the year.

Choose an hour, a pen, some stationery, and a reward. 

This is not as impossible as it may seem. Put time on the calendar now, and talk with your kids about it. Decide in advance whether you are going to ask kids to thank every teacher, or just their favorite one or two. Get stationery with enough room to write four full sentences—but not four paragraphs. Know what the delivery plan will be. When it comes time to write, you want the road to be smooth! 

Prioritize student voice, not parent pocketbooks and perfect wording. 

Encourage your kids to give teachers gifts only if they are authentic; otherwise, re-frame the note itself as the gift…teachers don’t become teachers for the free frappuccinos and scented candles they get at the end of the year! Note that thank you notes don’t need to be proofread by parents or adults; teachers see students’ raw writing all the time, and they actually delight in authenticity. 

As a teacher, I received all kinds of thank-you’s that were likely not parent-approved—and I loved them! One student informed me that for the first six months of class he thought my course was “insignificant, excessive, and useless” before finally “seeing the light” in the Spring. Another girl thanked me…

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Liza Garonzik

Liza Garonzik is the Founder of R.E.A.L. Discussion, a program that trains faculty to (re)teach Gen-Z students the discussion skills they need for success in learning — and real life. Her work is informed by an interdisciplinary research base and experience as a student, teacher, administrator, and trustee in diverse independent schools. Get in touch at [email protected] — there's little she loves more than a great conversation!