How to thank your child's teacher (and not look like a suck-up)

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A parent recently asked NerdyTeacherMom for advice on how to get her daughter's teachers to think of her favorably as they wrap up their grading for the year.

If you don't have a child in high school, you might not see the big deal. But for those of us with high school students, we know (or will soon understand) how significant quarter grades are. In my district, quarter grades, along with midterm and final exam grades, are averaged into the overall grade earned for the course. This final grade is what is used to calculate the grade point average (GPA). The GPA, of course, helps position students for more competitive colleges and scholarships.

I asked mom who her daughter's teachers were. I figured I could give her some hints on what those teachers might like. But when she named colleagues who I actually don't know well, I was forced to give her question some more thought.

As much as I, personally, would love to walk into the summer armed with gift cards to Starbuck's, Target and Dunkin Donuts (or anywhere else -- I'm not picky), I have to admit that I would wonder about the motives behind an influx of such affection. In our district, we are allowed to accept gift valued at $20 or less. But teachers of integrity aren't going to show favor (or even grace) to a child solely on the promise of a cappuccino. In fact, such a suck-up gift might actually have an adverse affect:
What kind of teacher would I be if I bumped up Mary's grade just because her parents gave me a gift card when Marsha's parents may have wanted to but couldn't afford it? Now I definitely can't bump up Mary's grade.
And, coming from a teacher, one of the easiest ways to become a pesky parent is to act like you are entitled to everything you want -- from unlimited amounts of teacher time and attention to the grades you think your child should get.

I decided on two pieces of advice.

First, write a note of gratitude. Acknowledge the teacher's hard work and sacrifices of time. Tell the teacher something that he or she has done to help your child grow. Be sincere. Put it on paper. Keep it short and simple.

Second, talk to your daughter. Tell her that with one week left of instruction, finish strong. Tell her to put her phone away in class for the last week of school. (Let her know that you know this is not an easy thing to do and that you know other students will have theirs out.) Tell her that when teachers see students using phones in class, they make assumptions about how much those students care. Fair or unfair, I view students who put their phones away during class as much more serious and dedicated to learning then those who don't.

Since mom's question was ultimately about how to influence her daughter's teachers to think favorable about her, I encouraged her to urge her daughter to create positive, hard-working images of herself finishing out the year as a motivated learner.

I would venture to say that most teachers are pretty easy to figure out and to please. We want people to acknowledge that we sacrifice a lot of our personal time, money and energy. (Some of us even wake up in the middle of the night thinking about your child!)  For most teachers, a verbally acknowledge from parents is sufficient. And while students can tell us, too, their showing us -- through being cooperative and respectful and treating our classes as if they are valuable -- is what touches us most.

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