Teacher Appreciation Week started on Monday, May 5th. You probably have been seeing many beautiful posters and quotes popping up on social media sites honoring teachers for all they do. I’ve posted some of them on my Facebook page, too. But this morning, after receiving an email titled “Happy Teacher Appreciation Week” from the administrative assistant in my program, I shook my head in dismay and sighed. The email basically showed a picture of tulips in a vase with a message that said, “Happy Teacher Appreciation Week…Thinking and wishing you all the very best.” Is this what teacher appreciation comes down to … a form email that is sent to all the teachers in the program? Is this an email that any teacher would feel appreciated after reading?
As a Title I Literacy Specialist in NYC nonpublic schools, I often feel isolated. I don’t work with my colleagues as we’re all dispersed in sites across the boroughs serving Title I eligible students. And there are no regular opportunities for collaboration and forming strong relationships. We basically see each other on random meeting days when most of our sites are closed for holidays. Evidently, there is a pressing need to create opportunities where teachers feel connected and empowered through ongoing collaboration. Teachers need to meaningfully feel that they are part of a larger organizational mission that is aimed at serving and facilitating learning independence for all our students.
It’s not enough to forward the same email to all teachers. Teachers don’t feel appreciated with form emails. They need to feel valued in relevant and genuine ways. Here’s how one elementary school principal in Michigan celebrated his teachers today. Ben Gilpin made these tweets today with the hashtag #TeacherAppreciationWeek .
This is an example of authentic appreciation that goes a long way in enhancing teacher morale and inspiring teachers to continue doing what they love to do.
The point is that leaders need to recognize teachers for the great work they do everyday. It is not enough to just say, “Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.” Leaders need to get personal and recognize teachers individually for their accomplishments, no matter how small. They need to make it a priority to know and understand what teachers do everyday. They need to take an active interest and get in the trenches with the teachers to show their support. They need to assess capacity for implementing instructional initiatives and provide guidance as needed. They need to REALLY listen to what teachers have to say and let them know that they matter. They need to give teachers time to collaborate and collectively plan personalized professional development. They need to develop positive relationships with teachers to promote trust and openness. And above all, leaders need to empower teachers by involving them in decisions that affect the children they teach.
Leaders can do so much throughout the year to show authentic appreciation for teachers. One form email doesn’t cut it!
photo credit: ednotesonline.blogspot.com