| By Nicole Albrecht |
A squeaky lunchroom cart is being pushed down the hallway. It is filled with candy snacks and cards, as well as big bowl of chocolate covered strawberries. The principal’s secretary is pushing the cart from classroom to classroom, during instructional time, offering up treats in celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week. I stare down the hallway watching the cart come my way, thankful I am on my planning period, and though I am grateful for a sweet treat, I am more relieved that this isn’t during my regular scheduled classes. A quick thank you to the secretary and with a chocolate covered strawberry in my hand, I close my classroom door and smirk thinking, “would have been nicer if the principal actually passed these out” and then I thought about what I actually would have wanted from my administration during this “appreciation week.” Chocolate strawberries and candies were not the answer.
During the early month of May, National Teacher Appreciation is the star holiday in front of Memorial Day. For some teachers, it is a week of free lunches, early releases, assemblies, announcements, and student hand-made thank you cards. There are also some teachers who do not have the luxury of such appreciative gifts from their students and administrators—receiving nothing at all. As a former teacher, I have experienced both forms of appreciation from administration and have felt the same about it all: for me, Teacher Appreciation Week was something that should be happening all year, not in the form of chocolate covered strawberries and thank you cards.
So what does a teacher really need from their administration to feel appreciated? Looking back on the last eight years of my teaching career, considering my own needs and the discussions I’ve had with colleagues, I have outlined a few common themes that may help administrators show their teachers they are appreciated year-round:
- Providing teachers with opportunities to lead outside the classroom, such as content developments, curriculum coaches and department leads.
- Collaborating with teachers when making school improvement changes.
- Having a safety plan in place that is implemented and updated frequently to provide teachers and students with a safe environment.
- Addressing student behavior and discipline issues quickly and appropriately.
- Allowing teachers to have a choice in selecting meaningful professional development opportunities.
- Genuinely involved with parents and community outreach programs.
- Being visible and available to the students and staff during school hours.
- Having a new teacher support plan in place for developing and supporting new teachers.
The themes that I have listed above are also commonly covered topics in many of GVRL’s Professional Development titles provided by ASCD and Corwin, which makes accessing the knowledge an administrator needs to help acknowledge teachers easier and conveniently.
Several of the titles available for administrators cover the themes mentioned earlier such as, Partnering with Parents to Ask the Right Questions, and Retaining New Teachers provided by ASCD. A principal that knows how to involve the parents and community will win the teachers over every time. Partnering with Parents to Ask the Right Questions, will help principals learn how to form partnerships that initiate change with special education, ELL, district-wide equity, and teacher outreach. The basis of forming partnerships starts with asking the right questions which lead to involvement. Teachers who have parental involvement, are more successful in their classroom because they feel supported and ultimately appreciated. New teachers are the baby birds of the animal world and they need to be nurtured and developed if a school hopes to retain them. Retaining New Teachers will help guide principals as they take new teachers under their wing and provide for them the tools they need to survive and ultimately stay with the school. New teachers feel appreciated when they are provided with mentorship and support as they embark on their new career in the classroom.
Corwin also offers several titles such as, How to Deal With Teachers Who Are Angry, Troubled, Exhausted, or Just Plain Confused and The Power of Teacher Rounds. The title of this book, alone, should draw every school leader in. At some point in time teachers will be one or all of these characteristics and an administrator must learn how to effectively and most importantly positively deal with the types of teachers in their school. From the teachers who are angry, hostile and manipulative to the jokesters, know-it-alls, and perfectionist, this book will help guide a school leader on how to handle all types of teachers. Teachers feel appreciated when they can see that their administrators take the time to learn about each of them individually and learn how to work with them in a positive manner. The Power of Teacher Rounds takes a different approach in helping a school leader implement a new professional learning opportunity for their teachers. By focusing on hands-on and step-by-step instructions, this book guides leaders on how to implement teacher rounds, provide opportunities for feed-back and stressing the importance of colleagueship, shared visions and collaboration. Teachers feel appreciated when they know they are part of a community, which is one of the results of effective teacher rounds.
Appreciating teachers during National Teacher Appreciation Week is a great way to nationally recognize all the work they do year-round, but what teachers don’t need is a free lunch or chocolate covered strawberries to show that they are appreciated. Teachers play a pivotal role in the education and development of a child and appreciating them should go far beyond the week of May. Appreciating teachers year-round is simple to accomplish if they keep in mind what their teachers really want from their administration: support, trust, and respect.
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