Two Missouri teachers are going viral for a sweet note they sent home to parents of students in their class.
Kristen Driemeier, 37, and Heather Steighorst, 34, have been fourth-grade co-teachers for eight years together at Festus Intermediate in Festus, Missouri.
This year, before the first day of school, the two teachers sent a note to parents titled “Handle with Care.”
The note reads: “If your family is experiencing difficulties at home, I would like to provide additional support at school…If your child is coming to school after a difficult night, morning or weekend please text me ‘Handle with Care.’ Nothing else will be said or asked. This will let me know that your child may need extra time, patience or help during the day.”
The teachers said they found the idea for the note on the popular teaching website, Teachers Pay Teachers, where teachers share resources and lesson plans, but do not know the original creator of the note.
One of their student’s parents shared the note on Facebook with praise for the thought behind the "Handle With Care" note. Her post has since gotten over 200,000 shares and thousands of more comments.
“We’ve had so many positive text messages and e-mails,” Driemeier said. “We feel like we’re getting Punk’d.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say a focus on mental health is essential for students returning to school.
"We don't know the level of trauma that individual students have had. We don't know their family situation, if they lost somebody, if parents have lost jobs," Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, director of policy and advocacy for the National Association of School Psychologists, said. "So what we are encouraging schools to do is really in those first couple of weeks, just infuse a lot of social-emotional learning, give kids the opportunity to talk about what's happened over the last year."
Driemeier and Steighorst said the note allows them to acknowledge when a child might need extra support or patience, especially while transitioning back to school in this unprecedented time.
“It is important to remember these kids are dealing with all the normal kid troubles plus the unknown, fear and politically-charged time caused by the pandemic,” Driemeier said. “I feel like if I know about their day or their weekend or their morning we can talk about it….instead of keeping it all bottled up inside.”
The co-teachers hope that their note will make school a safe place for their students to learn and grow.
“When our students are with us, we love them like they’re our own,” Steighorst said.