May: a magnificent month for celebrating mothers, teachers

Moms (and dads, too) are their kids’ first and most influential teachers. On the flipside, classroom teachers often step into parenting shoes during their workday, channeling little ones’ energy, settling conflicts, and wiping away tears in between reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic lessons. So it makes perfect sense that National Education Association’s National Teacher’s Day and Mother’s Day are so close together (May 9 and 14 respectively), offering opportunities for mutual nods, props, and cross-celebrations.

After all, shaping children into successful adults is definitely a shared responsibility. David Cosby, pastor for First Baptist New Orleans, writing a few years back for the Times-Picayune, in an opinion piece titled, “A Mother’s Influence Is the Strongest in Our Lives,” said it beautifully: “Teachers and parents conspired together to make me a better person despite myself.” He further remarked on the parent-teacher partnership by saying, “This collaboration between classroom and living room is only possible if parents own their role as the child's chief educator.”

The NEA and the national PTA offer that one way for parents to express their own or their child’s appreciation is by participating in their #ThankaTeacher campaign. During the entire Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7-13) they suggest shout-outs to favorite teachers via social media with “A picture of yourself with your favorite teacher, past or present; a picture of your child with his or her teacher; a picture of yourself holding a piece of paper with a simple message saying Thank You to a teacher and why you’re thanking him or her.”

Early grade-school teachers traditionally have their students make sweet, cool gifts for Mother’s Day that moms can treasure; moms can also use some of the same ideas to recognize teachers on their special day/week with original and inexpensive gifts. (Plus, you can drop some hints around home--even in the ear of your significant other--about how the people who love you most can celebrate Mother’s Day! It’s a win-win investment of time and money.) Start, for example, with the following great ideas from “28 Simple Mother’s Day Crafts and Gift Ideas” from Teach Junkie:

“Top 10 Reasons I Love My Mom" – It’s like a great big hug with every turn of the page. Along with the basic “list,” it could include poems, stories, illustrations, and cover art! (Think how easily this could be translated into “Top 10 Reasons My Teacher Is the Best!”)

Cookbook – Teach Junkie suggests combining the favorite recipes of moms in the class with student versions of their favorites to make a one-of-a-kind cookbook for moms. (In turn, YOU can be the gatherer, compiling your child’s classmates’ moms’ fave recipes and giving them to their teacher.)

Tile Trivets – The “teacher doing for moms” version urges asking for a donation from a local big-box hardware store for plain white glossy tiles. Teach Junkie says, “Use markers to create a unique design that shouts “Mother’s Day” and can be used as a trivet, a paper weight or even a garden stone.” (Yep, you guessed it. Change the message to something along the lines of “Best Teacher Ever!” For a little more money, you can also go to one of those “pottery painting” franchises that provide materials, including paint and glaze, and also fire the pieces to help make them long-lasting.

For other ways to help teachers and students any time of year, check out the Donors Choose.org page titled “Support a classroom. Build a future.” Many teachers nationwide are being asked to do more with less. A tall order for an already big job. As former Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, nicknamed “the education governor” once said, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” Recognizing their efforts on National Teacher’s Day, as well as all through the year, can help keep them stay motivated and moving through the challenges they face, with they graciousness they so often demonstrate, including getting kids to remember Mother’s Day!