Teachers are the backbone of any school community. Teachers aren’t just tasked with creating engaging lesson plans, facilitating meaningful discussions, and providing students with the tools they need to succeed in school and life. Teachers also have extracurricular duties, are expected to scarf down a lunch in 30 minutes, and in recent years have been called upon to be substitutes during their planning periods. Sadly, all too often, the hard work of teachers goes unnoticed or underappreciated…or it’s crammed into one week at the end of the year. Teacher appreciation takes more than a week! That’s why it’s so important for school administrators to take the time to recognize and show appreciation for their teachers throughout the year, and all it takes is a little forethought and time.
Here are five seemingly obvious, yet often overlooked ways administrators can show their teachers some love:
1. Acknowledge their hard work
It’s amazing what a little recognition can do for morale. As an administrator, you should take the time to acknowledge the hard work of your teachers, both publicly and privately. Whether it’s a shoutout during a staff meeting, a personalized email or note of appreciation, or even a mention on the school media accounts, recognizing the effort of teachers is a simple but powerful way to show appreciation. Now, if you’re not in the habit of doing this regularly, don’t be surprised if your staff thinks something’s wrong with you. Just keep it up and be consistent!
2. Provide opportunities for meaningful professional development
Teachers are lifelong learners and offering them the chance (that means pay for it and get subs) to attend professional development workshops or conferences that align with their interests and career goals is an excellent way to show appreciation. While you’re at it, assess the PD needs of your staff and align any speakers or “team building” to those needs. No more snore fest staff development meetings! Not only does this demonstrate that your staff’s professional growth is valued, but it also helps them to become better educators and it will benefit their students. By investing in the specific professional development needs of your teachers, you are demonstrating a commitment to the growth and success of your school community.
3. Give them time off
I know what you’re thinking…”but my staff only gets a certain number of days off per year”. Teaching is a demanding job, and teachers can often feel overworked and stressed. Get creative at giving your staff some extra time off during the school year. It is an excellent way to show that their hard work is appreciated! On teacher work days, schedule meetings that are purposeful and productive rather than pointless. This will give staff time to work in their rooms or plan together without any type of schedule. And while you’re at it, allow personal days taken to be just that…personal! Don’t give your staff grief for taking the time off they’ve been given.
4. Offer thoughtful tokens of appreciation
Sometimes, it’s the small things that count (even if it’s taking the time to check out these ideas). Administrators can show appreciation for their teachers by offering small gifts or tokens of appreciation throughout the year (I’m talking about outside the “check-the-box” activities here). This could include things like gift cards, a personalized note or thank you card, flowers, candy, or even a catered lunch. These gestures, especially when they come at random times, can go a long way in showing teachers that they are valued and appreciated. But please make sure you plan well; appreciation falls flat on its face if you run out of food or chocolate!
5. Be intentional about listening to your staff
An end of the year survey doesn’t count here. Incorporate listening to your staff and acting on their advice as much as you can! Actively seeking out your teachers’ ideas and input into decision-making processes makes you a better leader and demonstrates that their opinions and expertise are valued. By involving teachers in decision-making processes, you not only show appreciation, you create a more inclusive, positive and collaborative school culture.
Teacher appreciation is not just a week-long luncheon; it’s a year-round commitment. When you are intentional about recognizing and showing appreciation for your staff throughout the year, it substantiates the nationally-recognized days, the luncheons, and the public comments about how wonderful your teachers are.
Give these five areas a try and stick with it. I think your staff will appreciate the effort!