When my son was in preschool, I saw an idea floating around my parenting circles: Choose a sentimental book and, starting in kindergarten, have his teacher write him a note on a page in the book. Do this every year through high school. On graduation day, give him the book.
I admittedly never got around to doing this, and he’s now about to finish Year 2. I don’t think it’s too late, though! You can start at any year; even a book with messages exclusively from high school teachers would be meaningful.
Picking the book
The original suggestion I remember hearing was to use a copy of Dr Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go. This is sort of an obvious choice to me since I cannot, to this day, read that book without getting choked up.
Another fun choice would be a book of funny poems, such as Shel Silverstein’s Where the Footpath Ends. The teacher can flip through and pick a poem they like or that reminds them of your kid and write their message on that page. This would make for a fun end result where the messages are all mixed up and out of chronological order but with an extra layer of meaning.
You can also opt for a book that was one of your child’s favourites as a toddler/preschooler. Where the Wild Things Are, maybe, or Rosie Revere, Engineer.
Try to choose something classic that won’t be embarrassing for either of you a dozen years from now. As much as my kid enjoyed Dinosaurs Love Underpants, I don’t particularly want to hand that over to his Year 10 history teacher.
Getting the messages
In primary school, you’ll definitely want to get each of your child’s main classroom teachers to participate by writing their own message.
Think also about other special adults within the school that your child either really likes or spends a lot of time with. Maybe they’re always raving about the school librarian, or because they have to take regular medications they spend more time than usual with the school nurse. A few extra messages sprinkled in will make the book even more special.
As they get into high school, it would be a feat to try to get all their teachers to write messages. But by the end of the school year, you’ll know which teachers they’ve really connected with, learned from and respected. Also consider tracking down their favourite rugby coach, band instructor or after-school tutor.
The last parent-teacher conference of the school year is a good time to logistically get this done, but you can also call or email the teacher with your request and — assuming they say yes! — drop the book off at the front office for them.
Giving the gift
On high school graduation day, give the wrapped book to your now-adult kid and cry forever and ever together.