Teaching our children to say thank you can offer valuable closure at the end of the school year. Saying thanks gives the opportunity to bless those who have invested so much into them. Ten months. One hundred and eighty school days. Our children’s teachers have spent countless hours preparing lesson after lesson and have lived alongside our kids five days a week for nearly a year. They have listened to their stories, charted their growth, averaged their grades and reviewed their projects. These teachers have loved selflessly and worked tirelessly so that our children could grow and learn and continue becoming the wonders we know them to be. As the year draws to a close, how do we help our kids, their students, to say good-bye? How do we finish this year in a way that honors the work that has been done on our behalf?
When my oldest son started school, we were so thankful for the good work of his teacher, and we wanted to be sure that she understood how grateful we were. As the year wrapped up, we sat with him and reviewed his field trips, his school experiences and all the things we had watched him learn. The list was long. And after we talked it through, we all sat back, amazed. While I had sent several notes of affirmation to the teacher throughout the year, we realized that the person she had not heard from was our son. So, with the year-in-review list before us, we sat with our boy to help him write a thank you letter to his teacher.
That son is now 17, and writing a detailed thank you has become an important part of our year-end traditions. This process allows our children to see how far they have come, how much they have learned, and how diligently their teachers have worked during that one year. But more importantly, it gives each of our children the opportunity to express their gratitude, in their own way, to someone who will always hold an important place in their lives.
And sometimes, the class was hard, the teacher didn’t connect, or the year held struggles we had to work through. What do we do then? We find something to be thankful for anyway. Every single year. Because I want my children to be able to see through the rough spot and land in a place of gratitude. Learning and work occurred. Experiences were offered. Sometimes this is enough. So we say thank you. God calls us to be thankful people.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Our gratitude is not dependent on our circumstances. We are grateful people because we follow the heart of Jesus.
God calls as Christians to be thankful people. We have been richly blessed by God and as a result we overflow with gratitude. As gratitude to God permeates all of our lives it will overflow to those around us. It is a blessing to be around thankful people. Teaching our children habits of gratitude for what they have received equips them for life in God's kingdom.
On the night before the last day of school, we take those hand-written, detailed thank you notes and scan them into the computer. We save up those memories for our kids. We have files of stories that reflect their school years, in their own words, in their own handwriting. We have all those letters that tell how their lives were impacted by people who loved and taught them. And our children have learned a habit of gratitude that they will carry into adulthood -- a habit that will impact how they see their lives, their colleagues, their friends.
On top of all of this, the amazing teachers who have loved our children hear a heart-felt thank you from the very people they sought to serve. In a child’s language, the year unfolds and the words tell of work well-done. A necessary sense of closure can be found for our children and for their beloved teachers. Teaching our children to say thank you can offer valuable closure as it blesses the giver and the receiver.
It is a simple and powerful gift.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster