It's 90 Days to Teacher Appreciation Week! May 4, 2020, is the magical day when educators across the United States will experience 5 days of euphoria with gifts showered upon them and all forms of gratitude expressed.
But what about the rest of the year? What if Teacher Appreciation started at the beginning rather than the end? Why wait?
We all know that talented, energized, engaged educators change the world for students, for parents, for schools leaders, even for society. So rather than focus efforts of appreciation in the waning days of the school year, it is in the best interest of administrators and parents to cultivate trusting relationships with teachers (and all employees of the school) from the very first day!
Like beauty, appreciation is in the eyes of the beholder. If you genuinely want to create a culture in which faculty can thrive, then it makes sense to understand the individual needs and goals of each person. Some respond to words of encouragement, others are moved by gifts, and for many it's important to spend quality time together. (Read up on the 5 Love Languages for guidance)
Here are a few suggestions for administrators and parents to express appreciation throughout the year.
Fundamental to a healthy faculty culture is providing the resources that teachers need when they need them. Core to your success as a leader and to the effective delivery of your mission is to make the necessary preparations in operating budgets, alternative funding sources (e.g., grants, donations, etc.), and logistics to ensure that the materials and equipment they need to do their work is available and accessible. Expecting them to raise money for the basic needs of their classroom is poor leadership and creates unhealthy distractions.
Vague expectations are a killer to faculty trust and engagement. In our focus group interviews with thousands of educators, their message is clear: Tell us what you want and then hold us fairly accountable to those factors of success.
Inconsistent verbal and non-verbal feedback creates even greater stress for teachers and staff, and is a major contributor to them leaving the profession for other careers. We've witnessed the transformation to faculty culture when the leadership provides granular characteristics of effectiveness that are more focused on attitude and relationships than technical skills of job performance.
The tyranny of the urgent can so often dominate the day, leaving no time or energy to recognize and reinforce those who are making the greatest contributions to the mission and culture of the school. Lack of appreciation is a primary cause among teachers who leave a school or even the profession. Both private and public affirmation should be used to emphasize and enforce the declared shared values and goals of the school.
Disciplined leadership is the critical first milestone on your path to greatness--there is no shortcut. Teachers and staff highly value when you do what you say you're going to do.
Everybody is busy trying to manage multiple responsibilities. You set the pace for the culture of the school, beginning with your integrity regarding commitments to your team.
The best gift that parents can give to the teacher(s) and administrator(s) who are shaping the future for their child is to communicate in a manner that is appropriate for professionals. That includes assuming the best and giving the benefit of the doubt.
Showing respect means:
... not sending an ALL CAPS raging email and blind copying other parents on it.
... not defaming school employees on social media, especially with partial facts.
... not threatening legal action when demands aren't met.
... not going over the teacher's head to the administration because of unsupported fear of consequences.
Showing up with gifts in May doesn't repair the damages from such disrespectful behavior. The wiser approach is to value the relationship with school employees and seek ways to foster their trust and engagement. Your child's education is far more likely to improve as a result.