Back to School: Thank a Teacher Challenge

Brian FishbachAdvice, Challenge


It’s early September. The northern hemisphere still has a month left of summer, but for many people, this week marks the end of summer—back to school season.

While we are busy putting so much emphasis and excitement on ourselves and our children as students, the people who get overlooked most at this time of year are the teachers themselves.

As a whole, teachers spend 7-9 hours a day with students—for many parents out there, that’s as much awake time you spend with your own children any given day.

This makes teachers incredibly important in children’s development and ultimately, shaping the minds of the future.

Still, teachers are notoriously underpaid, underappreciated, and too important to ignore. And let’s face it, you probably were complacent in giving a substitute teacher a miserable day at least once.

And like anyone in an industry that’s high in stress, low on pay, and often smothered in frivolous mandates, teachers just want to make a difference.

Ever work a job where you don’t get credit for your hard work? It’s a daily occurrence for teachers—the fruits of their labor go unrecognized.

(Keep reading… this isn’t a pity party, it’s a challenge in gratitude.)

And that is why we are giving you the “thank a teacher challenge.”

Thank a Teacher Challenge (#thankateacher)

1) Think of a Teacher

Think back to when you were younger… There is at least one teacher you remember who made you feel good, intelligent, inspired, and perhaps recognized a skill you have that became the basis of a career of yours today.

2)  Seriously, think of ONE

If you can’t think of a teacher right now, first think back to elementary school. Then middle school. Then high school. Then college. Or even a coach or instructor for a hobby or sport you took at one point in your life. Pick one teacher from that category.

If you’re still stuck, call up a friend, a sibling, or a parent, ask them which great teacher of yours stands out the most in their memory. Tell them why you’re asking, and tell them to join you in the thank a teacher challenge.

3)  Get in Contact

Figure out how to contact the teacher. Hint: they’re probably on Facebook, even the teachers who retired 20 years ago.

Your college professors usually have their email listed online.

And many schools have a contact list of former teachers. Call up the office (this may feel strange if you were one of the punks who were sent to the office justifiably, but keep trucking through.) They might not give you a mailing address for the teacher, but ask if they can forward your message along.

If you tell the school you just want to give your old teacher a phone call and express grattitude, I’m willing to bet they will give you the teacher’s number.

4)  Show Your Gratitude

It doesn’t have to be long.  It can even be as short as a tweet.

Tell your teacher what you are up to these days.

Perhaps even recall something specific your teacher taught you at that time—a book you read, a big project they assigned. Most of all, thank them.

After many years and dozens upon dozens of teachers you have forgotten, you are contacting this particular teacher to tell them they made a difference in your life.

5)  Tell Their Next of Kin

If you find out that the teacher you had is no longer alive, ask the school if they have the contact info for their next of kin. You will absolutely make your teacher’s family’s day if you tell them how much their parent meant to you.

Or tell their next of kin yourself—can’t hurt.

Tip: If you write to a foreign language teacher, write to them in the language they taught you. I wouldn’t dare write a letter in English to my high school French teachers.

6) Share on Social Media

If you write a letter or an email, post what you wrote on social media.

Post a photo of you with the teacher (if you have one), and then paste your gratitude as the caption.

Maybe write out your thoughts and post a screenshot on Twitter.

You can also write your praise on Facebook.  Hashtag it #thankateacher.

Or don’t share it with anyone publicly—just the person you’re thanking. The point isn’t to get likes, the point of the thank a teacher challenge is to spread some gratitude.

7) Extra Credit (optional)

If you were a little shit to a substitute teacher, you get major points if you find them and apologize. 

So do this, and tell your friends that you’re doing the “thank a teacher challenge,” and let us know how it goes in the comments section—especially if you are a teacher and happen to get one of these messages this week.

You will absolutely make their day if you do this. And you’ll feel amazing for showing your gratitude as well.

A post shared by Neil Strauss (@neil_strauss) on

While Neil is writing books, Brian Fishbach is assisting Neil with his work. These are some of the tips Brian has learned from working closely with Neil. If you want to be on the inside, and learn the latest tools and techniques we are using here to improve our lives and the lives of others, then you’ll want to be part of this limited email distribution list. Click here while we’re still doing this.