A Note From Noah

I had the fortunate opportunity to hear NASA astronaut Barbara Morgan speak earlier this week. Morgan was the first teacher in space, and spoke about how when she first arrived at the NASA training facilities, astronauts would approach her to share words of gratitude for the teaching profession. They shared memories with her about the teachers that inspired them. Behind every good astronaut is a great teacher (more likely, dozens of them). The experience inspired Morgan to share that, "teaching is the most important profession in the world - and beyond!"

As teachers, we are drawn to our profession because of the good we can do in the world. We believe that teaching works – that if you pour love and trust into students, classrooms, and communities, beautiful things happen. People flourish, and imagined possibilities become reality. Students become astronauts and take off for the moon.

We, as educators, are motivated to thrive professionally because of our own unwavering internal faith in the goodness of our craft. Our desire to succeed in our jobs is predicated on that belief.

Which brings me to my point. I love hearing from our parents some variation of, “If there’s ever anything I can do to help out, let me know!” You – our parent community – are ever-generous with your time and contributions. As the year begins to wind down, here is my answer, here is what we need from each of you: words of gratitude, expressions of thanks.

I have my box of thank you cards in my office, collected during my years here as a classroom teacher. I am sharing three of them in this Note, to highlight for you how impactful these cards have been for me. The cards pictured here are all from 2008-2011, from my first years at the JCC - and they are still what keeps me motivated. All of us teachers have this collection, stashed away somewhere. Your words of thanks are the fuel that keeps us going, the warmth we return to whenever our energy is lagging, or our commitment is shaken. They remind us that teaching is not only something we believe in but something that actually changes lives.

Over the years, I have watched as the frequency with which parents write down – pen on paper – a note of gratitude for teachers has decreased. To be clear, I have no doubt that the gratitude felt by our parents is just as high as ever, but the same cultural forces that have brought us social media, instant gratification, and digital literacy have moved us away from the deliberate, patient nature of writing someone a thank you card. And so, I beseech you: take up this practice! Make it an annual habit to sit down and write cards to your children’s teachers. If you’ve ever wondered about a low-investment, high-impact strategy to strengthen your child’s school, you now have it. Know that these cards are well received, deeply cherished, and forever-motivating.

One day your child will fly to the moon - or beyond. Don't wait to thank the teachers who have mattered to them - thank them now. It truly means the world to us to be reminded of the impact we have as teachers in your children's lives. Thank you for taking the time to write a card to your child's teacher in the coming days.

Shabbat shalom,