The Power of “Thank You”

“Thank you”

2 simple words that mean so much. Especially when they are followed by a reason for giving thanks. 

As an educator of young children, I don’t teach for the “thank you”. I teach for the students, their progress, their laughs, their smiles, and that feeling of sharing a joy for learning. 

However, when I do get those genuine, ‘from the bottom of my heart’ “thank you” ’s, they often bring me to tears. Thank you can feel so reassuring, so comforting and can be a springboard that launches deep and powerful connections. 

An amazing colleague of mine, who is many years into their career, suggested I keep a journal of these kind words of thanks from parents and families. Initially, I thought this seemed silly. Why would I keep these notes and emails? What purpose would this serve me? But, I tried it anyways. Why not? If I didn’t find this practice helpful I could stop at any point and not tell a single soul I had ever done it. 

Fast forward to the present moment, where various letters, cards and printed emails from families live in the binder I stash at the back of my filing cabinet. I spread the word of this practice, as not a way to brag or boast but to share with you the feelings it has brought me.  

First of all, it brings me joy. What better reason to do anything? Why not document these joyful moments in celebration of student success.

Secondly, I find comfort revisiting these “thank you” ‘s when I feel tired, overwhelmed or broken down. It is easy for me to fixate on a lesson that didn’t go well, or the things that I could be doing differently; therefore doing them better. Flipping through this binder of positive thoughts allows me to reframe my mindset and reflect critically on my practice while being kind to myself.

Lastly, the powerful feelings that these “thank you” ‘s bring me are inspiring. I want to pass this feeling on to my colleagues, my students and their families who show up and work hard every day. I am mindful each day to share my genuine “thank you” ‘s out loud.

What is the most powerful “thank you” that you’ve ever received?

What is the most powerful “thank you” that you’ve ever given?

Teaching in Uncertain Times

When I graduated teacher’s college it was the beginning of the “Harris years”.  Teachers were being declared redundant all over Ontario. I spent three years teaching outside of the province.  Since then I have been through many rounds of collective bargaining-both as a teacher and a local ETFO leader.  I have seen how Ontario’s Provincial governments have continually eroded our collective bargaining rights, stripped our benefits and made working and learning conditions steadily worse for teachers and students.  As you well know, they’re at it again. I’ve been asked, what can new teachers do to make a stand for education while still keeping a focus on our classroom in these uncertain times?

1. Take care of yourself  Anxiety abounds in times of uncertainty and scarcity.  Focus on the present moment as much as possible.  Make sure you have the facts you need but try to stay out of the swirling vortex of unproductive conversation and speculation.  Take time when you need time, do something for yourself that isn’t school related, eat healthy, exercise, if it is something you do-meditate, and get some sleep.  Take one day at a time.

2. Don’t believe everything you hear in the staff room  Well meaning and passionate teachers will discuss the political situation.  Some of the things that you hear will be true and some will not.  The correct information will come from ETFO Provincial office, local ETFO  leadership and your school Steward.

3. Social Media  Social media is a great a source of information but also one of anxiety.  Remember to follow reputable sources such as ETFO and other Ontario Education Unions and get the information you need from reliable sources.  As always, be cognizant of who could be reading your social media posts and pass on correct information.

4. Attend Union meetings and ask questions  Collective bargaining and political legislation can be daunting.  Sometimes it is assumed that everyone in the room knows exactly what is being discussed.  Ask questions when you need clarification.  You might find there are others in need of such clarification too.

5.  Follow the advice of your Union Your Provincial ETFO has a plan of action that is communicated to all local ETFO leadership and ETFO members.  As a new teacher you may feel powerless, but there is strength in members taking action together.  Read your emails from your stewards and participate in political actions when asked.

6.  Support one another These are uncertain times for all teachers and education workers.  It is important to be aware of your own mental health and that of your colleagues.  Check in with your mentor and friends on staff when possible.  A note or a treat in a mailbox, an email or a visit at recess might make the difference in someone’s day.  Remember, other education workers in your school, whether they belong to a union or not, feel the same pressures.

7.  Your students  When the learning begins, your students will always need your full attention.  They will sense the anxiety that you are feeling.  Try to leave the uncertainty and politics at your classroom door as much as possible.  Concentrate on the students that you have in front of you for the next three months.  The students are at the heart of what we do as educators and we will get through this together.


Always a Mentee, Always a Mentor



This year, I‘m in a new school, in a new role. This September, every school day, I’m trying to figure out where my class is suppose to be and what and how I need to teach my students with special education needs. I am gradually learning the names of my colleagues but it seems like I can only get either their first name or the last name – I cannot put the person’s whole name together. My role in this special education classroom involves using a very prescribed program to support struggling readers and I’m still figuring it out.

And our school went through re-org (reorganization). This meant redoing class lists and changing rooms. The first week of school, my room 204 was organized and I had my bulletin boards decorated. After spending two and half weeks setting it up, I had to change rooms. Really? I moved all my stuff to room 102, redoing the bulletin boards and redoing the schedule so my students and I know where and when we are suppose to be.

You’d think this would not be a challenge for me as I am in my 18th year of teaching. But every time I take on a new role, I start all over again. Why do I do this? Because every time I take on a new role, I learn, a lot.

This year, my colleague and mentor, DHS, has been wonderful in supporting me through my transition into the school and into my program. Her contemplative stance has helped me work out various decisions and challenges. She also helped me set up my newly located classroom.

Over the past 18 years, I have been a mentee and mentor. I am a big believer in “Paying it Forward”.

My first teaching mentor was AT. She was my first practicum teacher and I was very fortunate to work with her as a grade level teaching partner. AT welcomed me into teaching with an open heart and a guiding hand. She showed me how to teach and I still use what she taught me today. I’ve had other mentors who were not teachers. My Vice Principal, AMW, walked me through a new program that I started in our school. The best part of AMW was that she was straightforward with me and challenged me in areas where I needed to grow. AMW was and is a great listener and guide.

At about my 7th year of developing my teaching practice, I became a mentor to other teachers. As a mentor to another teacher, I quickly realized that this mentoring process was not about me and my success but about my mentee and their success. I’ve mentored many teachers formally and informally.

My first “official” NTIP (New Teacher Induction Program) mentee was BT. He was a grade 8 Math and Science teacher, like me. After a couple of weeks of teaching grade 8, he was going to quit teaching. He told me (his words) “I did not give up going into the tech sector to deal with this stuff” – he actually used another  word.  I still remember him pulling up a chair directly in front of my desk and putting his head in his hands. I listened to him talk about the challenges of teaching grade 8 – which can be many and very disconcerting to a grade 8 teacher. BT was ready to jump off the teaching wall in this first month of teaching. I talked him off the wall. We spent time planning and working together – he got through the year without having to take a leave of absence or worse, quitting teaching. I knew he was going to be a great teacher because he was upset and cared about his work. Today, BT is a great teacher. When I saw him recently, I was so proud for his success.

I’ve also informally mentored Long-term Occasional teachers. HK was teaching grade 8  Math and Science. My Vice Principal asked me to help her as she needed collegial support.  Unfortunately, at that time, occasional teachers did not have access to NTIP support. HK was dealing with similar challenges I had faced (and BT had faced) as a grade 8 teacher. HK was a highly skilled and dedicated new teacher that was driven to make a difference in her students’ lives. We spoke often and met every week at a well known coffee location. There were tears and many stories. It was a tough cohort year of grade 8s in our school. She made it through and has gone on to be a very strong and dedicated teacher. I am very proud of how well she has done in her career.

I’ve mentored other teachers too. One teacher came from South Africa and was looking for Canadian experience. She spent time in my grade 7 classes, learning how we teach in Ontario. I directed her towards many resources she used for courses she needed to upgrade her credentials. To my delight, she ended up getting a full time teaching position a year later.

More recently, I mentored a newly graduated teacher, who helped out in my contained special education class. SM was keen, very well qualified (i.e. she had French) and working two jobs. She was a natural when working with my academically challenged students. She ended up volunteering in a French class at our school and then landed a full time teaching position.

After many positive and fulfilling experiences, I continue my career as a mentee and as a mentor. It’s part of our teaching practice and it’s part of our career path. We are teachers for our students and our colleagues.

And even as an 18 year plus teacher, I thank my colleagues for all the mentorship, collaboration, and support they continue to give me, every day.

I believe that when working collaboratively, teachers are better together.

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston

Partnering for Success Getting the most from Ontario’s New Teacher Induction Program: A Resource Handbook for Mentors

Ontario Teacher Federation: Survive & Thrive