A Suggestion for the New School Year- From One Mom to Another

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This past summer my three older daughters attended a wonderful local summer camp with fun activites, great Jewish values, a devoted staff, and a price that was laughably low. So one evening, towards the end of the session, I made a call to the camp director, who is a teacher by profession. And the call went something like this:

“Hello Mrs. Segal, this is the mother of X calling.”

“Oh, hello!” Mrs. Segal sounded a little worried.

“I just wanted to tell you how much my daughters love your camp! They come home every day raving about the activities, their counselors, everything!”

“Oh, I’m happy to hear that.” she still sounded worried.

“So I just wanted to thank you for putting together such a fantastic summer camp for our girls. I’m sure it is a ton of work, and it is clear that you do it with all your heart, so thank you!”

“Well, that is very nice of you…” She still sounded worried.

The saddest point of the conversation came when Mrs. Segal asked me: “And how can I help you?”

When I told her that I had simply called in order to thank her, she sounded stunned.

This is a woman, I understood when I hung up the phone, for whom a call from parents means that there is a complaint coming her way. This one’s daughter doesn’t like her counselor- what was she thinking when she gave a 15-year-old a position of such responsibility?! That one’s daughter came home with a sunburn from the day at the pool- hasn’t Mrs. Segal ever heard of sun cream or SKIN CANCER?! The other one’s daughter has been receiving treats every day- is Mrs. Segal intending to pay the dentist bills for the root canal her child is going to need by summer’s end?!

This week, our precious children will start school. We are entrusting them into very special hands- the hands of people who despite the low pay, and despite the hard work involved, and despite the fact that over the course of the year they will receive far more complaints than compliments- are still committed to educating our children, because they believe in the power of education to shape our children and as a result the future of the Jewish people.

I, like most moms I think, feel tremendous gratitude to my children’s teachers. The caring and wisdom and shining example that they provide for my children is something that I can never repay them for. The kindness that they do for me, my family, and my children is tremendous, even unfathomable.

So, as we prepare to send our children off this week with their new Spiderman backpacks and sharpened pencils, let’s try to remember the importance of putting that gratitude that we feel into words and expressing it to our child’s teachers. If all of us make an effort this year to pick up the phone to say “thank you,” or to pick up a pen to write “thank you,” or to tie a ribbon around a box of chocolates accompanied by a note to say, at long last, a heartfelt and much-deserved “thank you,” then maybe together we can help to remove at least one drawback from one of the most thankless as well as one of the most important of professions.

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