While a thank you note from a student or an extra cup of coffee are always welcomed as a way to say “thanks!” to educators, the 2020-2021 academic year has proven that teachers need nurturing and support that goes beyond the typical gestures associated with sharing gratitude toward a school’s teachers and staff. With NPR recently reporting that the stress from COVID-19 has pushed teachers to their breaking point, and concerns continue to mount over teachers leaving the profession due to overwhelming stress that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, Tutored by Teachers came up with four ways that administrators can show their appreciation for their teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week 2021.
Be As Present As Possible
As the end of a year like no other winds down, being present and available for teachers and staff is vital. Invite conversation from your faculty with an open door or “open Zoom” policy, or host open office hours so teachers can pop in and say hello or share what’s on their mind. Ask teachers what they need for a support system to get through to the end of the year, and offer them ways to come up with workable solutions. Actively listen to their concerns and feedback and receive it with care and attentiveness. Pop into their classrooms to lend a hand if needed and check-in with a friendly hello. Take time to ask how they’re doing — no, how they’re really doing. Inquire about their families and hobbies, and stop and share in a conversation that shows your interest in them for who they are beyond the profession. While this year has been incredibly difficult on school administrators as well, remembering to take the time to invest in educator well-being makes all the difference and is rewarding for all parties.
Consider Ways to Create More Flexibility in Teacher Schedules
Schools are busy places, and many teachers have been working non-stop since August of 2019. The end of the school year has a notorious, lightening-speed pace with so much work that needs to be accomplished. On top of it all, the stress and uncertainty from COVID-19 still lingers. To make the end of the year a bit more manageable, what is something small that can be taken off teachers’ plates? Can a faculty meeting be replaced by a quick email and used as a space for teachers to seek out counseling support or have extra planning time? Can staff rotate cafeteria or pick up duty? Can you streamline priorities and see what can be shifted to later down the road? (Do you really need another conversation about rotating hallway bulletin boards, or can that wait until the fall? )
Celebrate Your Teachers
What wonderful things have your teachers done this year? Has Ms. Smith transformed the arts curriculum into a completely asynchronous friendly format while Mr. McDonald has students mesmerized by the periodic table of elements? Divide the faculty among the administrators (starting along department lines or grade levels might be a helpful way to go) and write a one-sentence blurb highlighting and showcasing something incredible every educator has accomplished this year. Send it out to the entire community to celebrate the ways that teachers have engaged and encouraged students.
It’s no secret that this year has been especially difficult for teachers to feel connected. For Teacher Appreciation Week, consider ways that bring the community together. Host an online trivia event using a Kahoot or play other online games. Replace a faculty meeting with a meditation session or a chance for teachers to connect in small groups or breakout rooms. And yes, if possible, leave prepackaged snacks or treats in the faculty lounge. No matter what you do to say “thank you” this year, your outreach and efforts will be greatly appreciated.