Teacher Appreciation Is Needed More Than One Week A Year
Teacher Appreciation Week is a wonderful idea. It’s a chance to recognize the contributions of staff members who may be undervalued. But a week of gestures isn’t enough to help you build the confidence and competence of your staff, let alone solve the growing problem of teacher retention.
Here’s why & how to make an ongoing effort to value teachers, and ideas that can have a lasting impact.
Why Administrators Need To Fill The Teacher Appreciation Gap
In the past, teachers could count on getting regular, positive feedback from parents. That came in the form of thank you notes and emails, sending treats and small gifts, and verbal comments during meetings and phone calls. Since the pandemic, for various reasons, that respect and appreciation from parents have all but dried up.
Without it, teachers are losing their confidence. They feel taken for granted and even maligned. And that hurts both their performance and their relationships with students.
Administrators need to step in and fill the gap in emotional support. It’s not only about making teachers feel better but also about achieving district goals. Here are the lasting results you can achieve with an ongoing teacher appreciation strategy:
- Build confidence. Without positive feedback, teachers begin to doubt their abilities. Showing appreciation helps them regain their confidence and act on it.
- Improve effectiveness. When people feel valued and have resources to improve their value, they tend to work harder to live up to the praise and earn more of it. That helps teachers better serve their students.
- Grow satisfaction and teacher retention. It’s no surprise that when teachers become more confident and competent, they are happier in their jobs and more likely to stay.
5 Teacher Appreciation Strategies That Boost Effectiveness And Satisfaction
Putting goodies in the break room during Teacher Appreciation Week is a nice gesture, but it’s not going to make a long-term impact. Here’s what to do instead (or in addition).
1. Acknowledge the positive.
For every teacher on your staff, look for opportunities to show your approval and appreciation for their specific efforts and successes. This needs to be something you do on a regular basis, and it must be genuine. That means you must pay close attention to what they’re doing and connect with them on a personal level.
Here are some examples to get you started.
Actions to acknowledge:
- Working long hours above and beyond expectations
- Taking on extra responsibilities
- Helping colleagues
Skills and progress to acknowledge:
- Developing relationships with students, parents, and/or colleagues
- Managing difficult situations in the classroom
- Improving leadership, communication, or organizational skills
Simple ways to show your appreciation:
- A smile and a verbal comment in the hallway
- Sharing specific praise on a post-it note in a teacher’s mailbox
- Leaving a cup of coffee on their desk in the morning
I can tell you from personal experience that notes and letters can be a big hit. Teachers buzz about this every time they get one! I still keep thank you notes and cards from parents, teachers, and administrators. It’s worth more than money can buy.
2. Validate feelings and ideas.
Sometimes you have to be the bearer of bad news: you can’t implement the idea they are super excited about, or remove a difficult student from their class. But never be dismissive of the feelings, concerns, or ideas teachers come to you with. Let them know you appreciate their feedback, share their motivation to solve a problem, and sympathize with their frustrations.
Validation helps you build stronger relationships with your teachers. When they feel heard, it can lessen disappointment and boost confidence even if they don’t get what they want. And, they are more likely to come to you in the future with issues you can solve and requests you respond to with a yes. It’s a win for everyone.
3. Give them time
Time is one thing teachers never have enough of, and expectations continue to increase. For example, teachers must now create slide presentations for their lessons — something that requires more time. As we all know well, many teachers use a great deal of their own personal time to do their jobs.
So once in a while, surprise your teachers by giving back some of that time. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Let teachers go home at dismissal time and encourage appropriate work-life boundaries.
- Cancel a faculty meeting when the agenda can wait (try going for a walk together instead).
- Schedule a permanent sub to handle a teacher’s class so they can take a break.
4. Don’t judge, encourage.
Sometimes when a teacher has made a mistake or underperformed in some way, you need to get them to make a change. The best way to approach it is with an attitude of encouragement to learn and improve instead of a harsh critique.
Don’t jump to judgment about what the teacher was doing or not doing. Start by exploring the situation. You might find that there are mitigating factors that you weren’t aware of. Rather than making an accusation about what they did “wrong,” let them know about a best practice they can work towards. And offer them encouragement and help to get there.
All your teachers should know that observations are opportunities to learn. They won’t see it that way unless you make that clear in every conversation.
5. Invest in their growth and development
Appreciating teachers means supporting their efforts to grow in their careers. It’s possibly the most important way to boost both confidence and competence at the same time.
Start by identifying each teacher’s individual strengths and interests, areas where they want or need to learn, and their efforts and progress toward improving their skills. Then you need to follow through and provide ongoing opportunities for skill development, such as:
- Targeted PD opportunities based on each person’s interests and challenges
- Teacher coaching and mentorship opportunities where teachers can be comfortable opening up to someone who isn’t formally evaluating them
- Chances to observe and learn from other teachers
I know budgets are stretched thin and it can be challenging to support the diverse needs of your staff. Here’s a tip: many teachers can benefit from training and mentorship on behavior management and student mental health.
Especially since the pandemic, we are seeing that teachers feel overwhelmed by the mental health issues they’re seeing in class every day. They want to support struggling students but feel helpless because they don’t know what to do. Opportunities to learn about mental health and appropriate intervention can work wonders to reduce teachers’ stress levels and get students the help they need to succeed.
Remember that happy, effective teachers are the key to accomplishing your district’s goals. Teacher appreciation needs to be built into the climate and culture of your school.
For administrators, that might seem like an uphill battle. But it doesn’t have to be. Thrive is here to help support you and the needs of your school community. Give us a call to discuss your ideas and challenges, and learn about strategies and solutions that can bring positive change. Schedule a meeting today!