Thursday, August 6, 2015

Teacher Appreciation on a Random Thursday

Don’t worry, you didn’t miss teacher appreciation week (as a side note, can we talk about how teacher appreciation and nurse appreciation are crammed in to the same week? Every year this week rolls around, I get frustrated all over again). And really, why do we need to wait for a designated week to show our appreciation anyways? Because this topic has come up a lot recently, both in and outside of work, I wanted to take the opportunity, during a completely random week, to share some thoughts and reflections on teacher appreciation.

Though I now work in international schools when students are often unaware of  the “official” Teacher Appreciation Week, I remember vividly (and still see on Pinterest) boxes of cookies, coffee mugs, and craft projects crowding the desks of my teachers during elementary and middle school. I remember thinking it was awesome then (how lucky are they?!), but definitely have more of an eye-roll reaction these days. Teachers are more likely than anyone to appreciate a good craft project or box of chocolates, but how exactly does it show them that we appreciate them by buying the same crappy trinket for everyone, or by making something with popsicle sticks and a glue gun for someone just because the calendar week tells you to?

I still try to bake my teachers a batch of cookies or brownies during Teacher Appreciation Week (when is it this year, anyways?), but these days I am much more interested in finding more sincere and more frequent opportunities to show our teachers that I appreciate them and the work that they do. What are the things that we can do every hour, day, week, year, etc.. to try to show teachers that we appreciate them, and, more importantly, to make sure that they feel appreciated?

Food during instructor meetings, happy hours, staff events, etc.. are some of the first things that come to mind. Teachers like free food and alcohol just as much as any other normal human. But again I find myself checking each idea and asking myself “Will this make them feel valued as an individual? Will this make them feel like we appreciate the contribution that they are making?” And so often, the answer is no. Not really, or not enough.

So how do we do that? My favorite way is by sharing positive comments and feedback from students with the teachers, along with a little note telling them how much we appreciate their hard work.  I’ll send a weekly email with positive survey comments to each teacher, and say something along the lines of “It is so great to see such happy students coming out of your class. They are lucky to have you, and so are we!” Fast, easy, and effective. And as it turns out, this is what the teachers want, too. I know because I have asked them directly: what can we do more, or do better, to make you feel appreciated? Sure, everyone wants a raise, but during those times when that may or may not be possible (that deserves a post of its own!), the frequent sharing of positive feedback with individuals goes a long way in making sure that those teachers who work so far for you can truly feel that you appreciate them.

I’d love to hear in the comments, what are your preferred methods of showing appreciation of your teaching staff?