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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Time To Shine a Red Apple for a Teacher

Send a teacher a note telling him how positively he affected your life.

Published: Monday, May 24, 2010 - 06:00


s the school year is winding to a conclusion, scores of children are anxiously awaiting the beginning of their summer vacation. I suspect that there are also an equal number of teachers preparing to clean out their desks and use the next couple of months to unwind and re-energize.

The role of a teacher certainly has changed throughout the years. Besides preparing lesson plans, educators are now also responsible for being nurses, consolers, cafeteria monitors, playground marshals, dispute counselors, and fight and bullying interventionists. And of course, there is the usual amount of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a whole host of other maladies, including children who are suffering from malnutrition, physical abuse, or just a mild case of sniffles. Whatever the case, a teacher always seems to come to the rescue. As such, during this time of the year, I think it is incumbent upon students and even parents to single out a teacher or two and provide some thanks and praise for a job well done.

As I look back on my own education (and I might add that I have been educated beyond my intelligence) there were several teachers who had a marked effect and influence on my life. I'll bet that for many of you the same is true. In that regard, wouldn’t it be nice to take some time and write a letter or short note to a teacher who inspired you? Or how about writing to an educator who perhaps pushed you beyond what you thought were your limits, but now in retrospect, you realize that it was beneficial to your growth and development?

Back when I was in high school at Servite Seminary in Hillside, Illinois, I had an English instructor for all four years who had a dramatic effect on my life. His name was Father Gregory O’Brien O.S.M., and we all looked forward to his classes. Yes, he was demanding but we were the recipients of some of the finest learning in English literature. Each week, we had to memorize a poem and then inscribe it on paper, making sure we included every punctuation mark, to earn a perfect grade. In addition, Father O’Brien insisted that we read a book each week and then craft a book report. He introduced us to Dickens, Doyle, Shakespeare, Thackeray, Frost, and a whole host of authors that heretofore had been unknown to us. Even today I can still recite poems we had memorized although there certainly isn’t a big call for doing so these days.

He also demanded that each week we record 50 words in a notebook from our various readings and then write out the derivation and entire definition. Then we were required to write “an original, colorful sentence” using the word we had recorded in the notebook. After four years of doing so each week, we developed quite a vocabulary, which remains with me to this day.

As you can tell, Father O’Brien had quite an influence on my life. His teachings and encouragement in English classes provided me with a sound background in literature and the arts, and in a dramatic way provided me with the knowledge to hone my writing skills. Once I realized the influence Father O’Brien had on my career, I penned a letter to thank him. It reached him, shall we say, in the autumn of his years and he wrote back stating how appreciative he was to receive my letter. It made my day!

For all of you reading this, parents and school children alike, why not single out a teacher or two who had some influence on your life and write a letter to that person? Surely there must have been a teacher in your formative years or an instructor in your later years whose class you thoroughly enjoyed and whose teachings enhanced your life and your career. Take the time to write those people and share with them how their class shaped your life for the better. It would be like placing a well-shined, ripe apple on your favorite teacher’s desk. Do it now before something else crosses your desk. You will feel exuberated and your favorite teacher will have a large smile on his or her face. For them, it will be like biting into a red juicy apple that you left on the desk.

And while you are at it, how about writing to the school bus drivers and thank these road warriors for safely transporting our children to school and back home every day no matter the weather. As much as they enjoy being with youngsters every morning and afternoon, I think the absence of rollicking, laughing children will be a welcome relief during the summer months. So get those pens and paper out and write a note.

Robert Frost wrote:

“Two Roads Diverged In A Wood, And I--
I Took The One Less Traveled By,
And That Has Made All The Difference."

In this instance, choose the road that will delight a teacher’s day. Make it happen.

(Father O’Brien would be proud that I remembered that verse.)


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semi-retired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.