What I Want to Tell My Son’s Sixth Grade Teachers This Teacher Appreciation Week


I can honestly say that sending my oldest child to middle school last fall was one of the more daunting tasks I have encountered as a mother. I know, I know – kids survive sixth grade every day, I’m being dramatic and ridiculous, and I need to get over myself already. But since the day he was born, I was kind of dreading sending him to middle school. I don’t think I speak for myself alone when I say middle school was pretty much a parade of horribles, what with the whole suddenly needing a bra, braces, zit cream, and maxi pads, the cliques and popularity and broken heart nonsense, and the endless insecurity that pretty much defined my life for those three years from grades 6-8.

Even with all that, I was lucky, because I was very much not cool, but also not the least cool. That seemed to limit the extent of my harrowing middle school experiences. However, since becoming a parent, all I have heard about is how now, middle school is basically one big, scary orgy: the bathrooms designated for oral sex, the dances known for their pot busts, the school buses the equivalent of sending your kid to a county men’s prison naked. My own child came home from his first day of middle school and told me that he “now knows the inspiration for Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Welcome to the Jungle.'” Gulp.

The good news is, his impression much improved after that first day, and now that we are at the end of his first year of middle school and it is National Teacher Appreciation Week, I have a few things I would like to say to his sixth grade teachers:

I don’t know you, but I still appreciate you. 

This is our first year that I have a child who has eight different teachers each semester, and because of his three younger siblings, I haven’t been able to get involved at the school. It’s the first time I have ever not known my child’s teachers personally; I couldn’t pick a few of them out of a police line-up if I had to. I’m sure this is why most middle and high school teachers get very few individual Teacher Appreciation Week gifts – it’s overwhelming to buy for eight teachers, especially if you don’t know them at all. But I want you to know that although I don’t necessarily know what you look like, I am beholden to you for taking care of my first baby boy every day he is in your classroom. He’s had a year better than I could ever have imagined, and I know it is in large part due to you.

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I might not have realized until this year how important you are. 

This year, my child was introduced to Shakespeare. He built a manta ray by himself out of felt and pipe cleaners. He began to learn algebra. He researched and gave his first speeches and won his first debates. He built a motor. He learned how to play volleyball (and he loves it). He realized he has a knack and a love for languages. I am not sure that I remembered how much middle school changes the game in terms of learning and moving on to subjects that challenge, enrich, and push students toward the futures of their educations. I do know how important the teacher is who introduces you to Shakespeare, and since he doesn’t hate it, I think you won. My English major heart loves you for it.

I think you are a badass for doing this job.

As a parent of two tweens, I don’t want to imagine having a career that sent me straight into the jaw of the beast – that is, into a classroom surrounded by hordes of their hormonal selves – every day of my working life. Don’t get me wrong; I know the age has its merits, and the kids are interesting character studies, and maybe the job is even fulfilling on some days. But… whew. Add in the inequity of your paycheck in comparison to the importance and the workload involved, and you are pretty much my heroes. I truly believe that Superman wears pajamas with the faces of middle school teachers on them.

Today, I sent in a cake to add to a PTA-sponsored buffet in honor of the week. I didn’t have the time or wherewithal to sign my name on it or to let any of you know it was from me and my son. But maybe that is better – I hope that the anonymity of the gift made you feel loved and appreciated by more people. Like some other holidays I know (cough*Mother’sDay*cough), it almost seems like we shouldn’t need a specially-designated week to appreciate teachers. But I am glad we do, if only to give me the chance to pause and make a point of saying thank you. I know what you do is not easy, and it’s one of those jobs that if you do it badly, everyone speaks up. If you do it well, less do.

This is my way of speaking up.

Related post: A Note of Appreciation for Teachers

About the writer


Allison is a writer and a mother of four children. Her writing can be found at her own blog, Allison Slater Tate, on Facebook, and Twitter.


Rebecca 7 months ago

Thanks so much for this. As a long-time teacher, it’s always nice to be appreciated. P.S. I bet you’re a pretty bad ass mom.

Eliza 7 months ago

The teachers were a big factor in making my middle school experience a ‘parade of horribles’ to use your expression. So it’s nice to read positive articles.

Elisabeth S. 7 months ago

Thank you for taking the time to thank the teachers of your child. Though I am not one of them, I have been a high school teacher for past 30 years. Your post made me stop and reflect, and even get unexpectedly emotional. I realized that it feels like it has been a very long time since I have opened a post or an article to find something positive said about teachers. It felt really good to read your thoughts about the teachers in your child life. I bet if you sent them a copy of this blog post it would make their year! It would have made mine.

Tammy Bailey 2 years ago

do not pretend everything is alright with your child’s education, some teachers are not there for your children but for the their own selfish means to their own desires of security

Doro 2 years ago

I love reading articles like this! I’ve been gifted and appreciated and loved; not just this week, but throughout the school year. My students’ parents have not held back their feelings at all and most of them agree that their kids are deliriously happy in my classroom. Those who don’t, well, we still have 24 days of school to turn it around. Not that I’m counting or anything.

Amy Mak 2 years ago

Wonderfully said and written, Allison. I have had many of your fears and am beyond grateful that my boy feels like he’s known and appreciated. Thanks for writing this! I need to send the cake.

Jennifer Gibbs 2 years ago

6th grade was a dream. i’m living the hell of 7th grade parenting. it’s worse. 6th grade actually has a buffer zone and the teachers are really nice.. GL with 7th.
there’s maybe 2 teachers my daughter has that i would consider getting them gifts. they are amazing and she loves them and really strive to help her deal.

P. G. Shriver 2 years ago

Having spent eight years teaching middle school, I can tell you that every little gift I received made me feel loved and appreciated for doing what seemed one of the hardest, most thankless jobs in the world. I loved working with that age because they are so full of life and the desire to learn and experience concepts. They’re curious, funny, intelligent, shy, creative and just glorious to be around. Had it not been for mothers like you who demonstrated their appreciation for the job I was doing, I would not have made it through eight years. As a highly creative person, the education system wore me down quickly and I looked forward to the quirky little gifts my students picked out for me. I still have many of them on display. My favorites were the hand made gifts the kids made themselves. Thank you for being a considerate mother who cares about teachers.

Ann 2 years ago

I sub in middle schools. Let me tell you, it takes a special person to teach in a middle school on a full-time basis! Thank you so much for this article!

AbbyB 2 years ago

On behalf of middle school teachers everywhere–thanks!!

Theresa 2 years ago

As a stay at home mom of 5yr old twins, I’m able to help out in my children’s class room. After the first month of helping, I asked the teacher why, after 28yrs would you put yourself through this day after day? She just smiled and told me it’s what she loves to do. Now that the school year is almost over, I see why she loves to teach. Watching the kids learn something new and trying it out for themselves and then all proud telling you what they did. Big hugs every morning before class and then concerns when you’re not there. It’s been very special watching them grow and I’m proud to have helped out with that. And with that, I thank all teachers for taking the time to work with our children in helping them to learn and grow. It’s not always easy (I’m not the professional and there were times I wanted to just go home) and that’s why when the littlest girl in class gives you a big hug and smiles up at you, it makes it all worth while.

Karen O’Connor Duke 2 years ago

Great article!

Angie Lou Goldie 2 years ago

Wish we had teachers appreciation week in the UK… We’re anything but appreciated here, even by our own government

Lisa 2 years ago

This is fabulous! As an elementary school teacher myself, I have often mused over the fact that middle school teachers truly are their own very special breed and deserve to be paid more than other teachers. We all work hard, but geez. That age group. UGH!!! :) And your line about Superman’s PJs with teachers’ faces on them? LOVE that!!!

    Erin 7 months ago

    As a middle school teacher I appreciate you for what you do. If I taught elementary there would be soooo much crying. The kids might even do some.

Shaunacey 2 years ago

I know some teacher friends who would appreciate this immensely!


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