Teaching children, by example, about appreciation

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Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am an assistant teacher in a preschool. We recently celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week. The children and their parents showered us with homemade gifts, store-purchased gifts and gift cards. Different gifts were given to different teachers, all individual and most signed and colored by the children. You could see the pride in the children's eyes and smiles as they delivered a different gift each day to the teachers. My dilemma is that while I took care to accurately catalog the gifts and givers all week, my lead teacher and the other assistant in the classroom did not. I spent last weekend handwriting notes addressed to each child thanking them specifically for each gift. When I brought the notes to school, the other teachers were upset that I took the time to do this. They claimed, "It's Teacher Appreciation Week, and we are entitled to the gifts, and there is no need for a thank-you." Then the real reason came out when they wanted me to rewrite the thank-you notes in a generic form, from all of us, to each kid and parent. I told them no. I believe that a child and parent deserve a special, personalized thank-you. What do you think?

-- Feeling Appreciated

DEAR FEELING: One of the most important jobs preschool teachers have is to model pro-social behavior to their students. This means everything from using your "inside voice" to admitting when you've made a mistake, saying "please" and "thank you," and basically behaving like a respectful and responsible person.

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You know you were right to model an attitude of gratitude to your pupils. Children are so thrilled to give -- and to be recognized and thanked -- that it is amazing how often these important early productive and affirmative feelings descend into the grouchy, entitled behavior exhibited later in life.

The only thing that went badly here is that you "schooled" your co-teachers in how a good teacher should behave, and they reacted poorly.

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