Just say, ‘Thanks’

Krista Benjamin is a former English teacher and a freelance writer.

Sitting at my classroom desk last December, I thumbed through a stack of field trip permission slips. As I checked off names on my list, I mentally reviewed what I had to do before the field trip: confirm the transportation, let the school kitchen workers know we’d be gone, remind students to bring a lunch, check out the emergency kit from the office and so on. Nicole’s permission slip snapped me back to the present. Next to her signature, Nicole’s mother had written, “Thank you.”

Those two words made my day. Reading them, I felt even more grateful than I would the following week when I opened Christmas packages of candles and sweets from my students. I put a great deal of time into arranging the field trip and preparing the children for it, and here was a mother who appreciated my efforts. Or maybe she appreciated my teaching Nicole all year long. Maybe she felt grateful that I became a teacher in the first place and so was here to arrange this trip. I read as much into those two simple words as I wanted to.

A few other times over the years, parents and students have thanked me. One mom had two children in my program, and whenever I spoke with her, she said, “Thank you for all you’re doing for my kids. Thanks for going the extra mile.” A few parents thanked me for putting on the annual Gifted and Talented Fair, an evening of displays and presentations that required months of preparation. One year, a dad I had met only once called just to thank me for teaching his son and to tell me how much the boy enjoyed my class.

I could count the times I’ve heard “thank you” spoken aloud from parents and students fairly easily on my fingers and toes until Sarah enrolled in my program. She thanked me on her way out the door after every meeting of her fifth grade gifted and talented class. “Thank you, Ms. Benjamin.” This is what I heard when Sarah said thank you: Thank you for what you taught me today, thanks for the work you do, thank you for caring. I could tell from her tone of voice that she meant it.

The times I’ve heard “thank you” from students and parents have meant so much to me, I try to return the favor whenever I can. I say thank you to the dentist and the doctor, to the supermarket clerk, to the mail carrier, and especially, to my teachers in the continuing education classes I take. Thank you—it’s such a simple thing to say, and I know it goes a long way. Hearing “thank you” always reminded me of how much work I put into teaching and made it seem more worth the effort.

So this holiday season, if you want to give your child’s teacher a present, consider thanking him or her and encourage your child to do the same. Candles and sweets are nice, but a personal expression of thanks is a much more precious gift.