I saw a kid skateboarding to school today with a bouquet of orange and red daisies in one hand. He was smiling - holding on carefully as he plodded along - no doubt anticipating the moment he would pass the flowers on to his teacher with a card and a “thank you.” He would make his parents proud, I’m sure.
There were many of these tender exchanges throughout the course of this week. PTAs sponsored breakfasts and lunches, school administrators provided gift bags and giveaways, and millions of kids made adorable hand-made cards for the teachers they look up to. This is a great tradition, a wonderful opportunity for parents and school leaders to acknowledge the impact that teachers have on our children, while providing kids with the chance to show gratitude towards some of the most important adults in their lives.
For school leaders, showing appreciation and motivating teachers is part of the job description, and should persist throughout the year. Some leaders do this well as they understand appreciation brings out the best in people, while others, sadly, take teachers for granted and fail to excel in this area.
In the days and months before and after Teacher Appreciation Week, there are at least three things principals can do to show their true appreciation for the great teachers in their buildings:
1) Provide Teachers with Great Colleagues: Great teachers deserve other smart, supportive, hard-working teachers who bring the same energy and optimism to the work that they do. When a principal fails to keep the bar high for who gets to teach in his/her school - and who gets to stay - the teaching culture is eroded and great teachers will be less likely to remain. Who you hire and who you keep speaks volumes for how much you appreciate the great teachers in your building. See TNTP’s The Irreplaceables study which explores how principals can ensure that they are keeping their best teachers.
2) Value Teachers' Time: Recognize that unlike most professionals, teachers do not have the same autonomy over their day to day schedule as non-teachers. Even very busy principals could usually decide when to use the bathroom, when to return emails, when to move around the school, etc. Teachers, on the other hand, are constrained by their student-driven schedules, which makes their time with adults all the more precious. Do. Not. Waste. Their. Time. Make staff meetings count, don't "steal" preparation time for unimportant reasons and do not take a teacher's generosity for granted.
3) Provide Targeted Support: Teachers need different things at different times. While some new or struggling teachers might need to submit daily lesson plans for many weeks or months at a time that you’ll need to review and provide feedback on, others will need you in their room to help with a challenging student, or to be a thought partner on a topic they are presenting to the rest of the staff. Appreciate teachers by understanding and acknowledging their individual needs, and do not assume that they all need the same thing at the same time.
Teachers, from your perspective, how else can principals show their on-going appreciation? Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!!
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.