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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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With Thanksgiving coming up, as well as International Coach Appreciation Day (November 4), I've been thinking about how we express gratitude. One of the primary complaints I hear from teachers is, "I just don't feel appreciated" (echoed often also by principals and other administrators in our school system). So many of those working in our schools don't feel appreciated -- and one luncheon or certificate per year just doesn't cut it.

The daily demands are so intense and taxing that we all need more acknowledgement of our hard work in order to manage some of the stress we're under: The acknowledgements help us feel seen, help us focus on what we need to do more of, and help us feel as if we're having an impact -- which is what all educators in schools want. These feelings build our emotional resilience helping us manage stress and rebound from setbacks.

Suggestions for increasing appreciation in your work life:

1. If you don't feel appreciated appreciate someone else. Yes, you read that right! Go out of your classroom or office and find someone else in your school whom you appreciate: perhaps the custodian who keeps your room so clean, or the administrative assistant who answers the phone and greets parents all day long, or a veteran teacher who's knowledge and understanding of the community you work in has been helpful to you.

Find someone and just express a few words of gratitude -- in person or perhaps in a note. A simple, "Thank you for what you do," will suffice! And while you do this, notice the feelings that come up as you genuinely appreciate another for his or her contribution to your school.

2. If you don't feel appreciated by your principal, say this to him or her: "One of the things that's hard for me is seeing the full impact that I have on our school. It would be tremendously helpful to me if you could share some of your appreciations for me more often. I'd really like to hear what you think I contribute to our community." Your principal may be very grateful to you for expressing your needs.

3. And then, appreciate your principal for something: "I'd like to share, right now, that I appreciate you having this conversation with me. I appreciate that you're open to feedback. I appreciate so many things that you do for our school and I recognize you may not get a ton of appreciation either." Your principal will definitely appreciate this!

4. Consider the range of people you can appreciate for their contributions to your work life: colleagues, supervisors, former teachers, students, their parents, and so on. Send them a mental appreciation naming the things you're grateful for.

5. Then appreciate yourself. If you are so inclined (you could even do this right now!) Close your eyes and acknowledge everything you do in the service of children. Talk to yourself, name what you appreciate about yourself, feel these appreciations sinking into your body, feel how you feel appreciating yourself. Say what you wish others would say to you. Try doing this at the end of every day for a week and see how your feelings shift.

Go Forth!

Expressing appreciations is perhaps even more important than receiving them: It's good for our brains, our hearts, and our perception of our world. Try it. Just for a few days or a week and see how you feel. And on November 4, if you've worked with an instructional or leadership coach or any kind of coach, and if there's a coach in your building, appreciate them! This is a relatively new Appreciation Day (ok, I'll confess: I declared this day a year ago because coaches are so under-appreciated) and an opportunity to recognize their hard work.

And finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to appreciate all of you. I really value your comments here and on Facebook, the messages I receive from readers, and your warmth when I meet you. Thank you.

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Todd Sentell's picture
Todd Sentell
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"

FEELING APPRECIATED. SORT OF

Earlier today I was in Principal Lurlene's office asking her a bunch of inane questions and all a sudden she asked me to make sure I gave her any and all handouts I've handed out in class this week for her to see, so I moped back to my classroom and printed them out and gave her everything.

Later in the day I got an e-mail from Lurlene about my recent announcement about how you'd get an automatic F if you forgot to bring in a writing utensil on the day of a test or quiz I thought was a real super great idea that promoted responsibility under pressure.

Here's her e-mail message:

Employee Person:

I would like for you to reconsider the policy you have for automatically giving a student an "F" on a test or quiz for forgetting to bring a writing utensil to class on the day of a test or quiz.

That strikes me as outside our mission and too punitive. I think the smarter and less negative approach would be to reflect the lack of materials on their daily performance sheet, which is what the sheet is for.

Either just have a stack of pencils available or let them return to their lockers. If you have someone who is a constant offender, then let's deal with that person individually. Remember, if you, as an adult, needed a pencil, I would give you one without penalty. Please feel free to discuss this with me further until you see it my way.

Your Boss, Lurlene Bougainvillea, Principal, All Knowing and Always Right

I stared at the e-mail a long time. Then I blinked. Then I laughed. Then I felt light-headed.

Now, just three days of school are in the history books and I'm already wondering about the quirky academic motivations of every one of my students and the back-at-ya humor of my principled boss. She really does know how to write memorable performance reviews.

But at this early point in my rookie teaching career I honestly don't feel like I'm in command of anything yet, except turning the classroom lights off.

Before I run out.

scoatshaan's picture

Elena,

I appreciate the heck out of the positive influence your writing, both on your blog and in your book, have had on my life. Thank you.

Michele Tsen's picture

This is so true! I am currently observing a high school classroom, and the teacher told me how under appreciated she felt and that it's just "normal" for teachers--they don't expect to be appreciated! How sad. Your article reminds me of Dr. Paul White's 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (www.appreciationatwork.com) in which he outlines some simple ways to show authentic appreciation to employees or colleagues. Your suggestions are also simple, inexpensive and hopefully effective.

Sue Reilly's picture

I thoroughly appreciate your thoughtful words. I recently shared your post about being a first-year teacher, so I have to say, "I appreciate you!"
Thanks

herrhubi's picture

Trish, I appreciate you sharing this with me :) I would love to have some more information on it.

Becky's picture

I love the points above discussing appreciation from the principal and for the principal. We all get so busy in our day and taking a moment to express gratitude and appreciation is important to work in every day. I have learned to stop in my principal's office and check that I am on track and to invite him into my classroom to see the great work we are doing. He once told me no visits from him is good news. That means there are no issues. So I gently remind him through invitations both verbal and by email to stop be and see my student's work. I have found it is also important for me to check in with my co-workers and express delight over the work their students are doing in their classes. If there is overlap in a conversation from English class that comes up in my science classroom, I make sure to show my excitement that my students were able to connect two subjects in their learning process. I make sure the other teacher gets that positive feedback.

One of the goals I will set as an administrator will be to proactively promote that two way positive conversation and praise accomplishments daily. It must be built into the daily calendar. I've seen elementary principals accomplish this daily. As a high school administrator, it can be more difficult given the size and setup of the school. Positive feedback will need to be accomplished by the whole administrative team on a regular basis across the larger high school campus.

Fadhilah Hanapiah's picture

Thank you!
This t-technique means a lot for teachers!
Thank you
Team up
Teamwork
Trust
Together
Teach us to appreciate each others which will give us a huge positive impact and encourage us to give more from time to time.

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