“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai
In 1953, Eleanor Roosevelt convinced Congress that there needed to be a specific day on which teachers were recognized.
It took until 1985 for what had been known as National Teacher Day to transform into its current iteration – a weeklong appreciation of educators, taking place the first week of May.
The National Education Association (NEA) now spearheads the annual Teacher Appreciation Week, with schools and education centers across the US taking part in their own fun and unique ways.
It may have taken over thirty years to set this appreciation party in motion, but now we’re here to celebrate! 🎉
This year, Teacher Appreciation Week (TAW) is May 2-6. We’re two years into an early childhood education (ECE) transformation due the COVID-19 pandemic, and showing appreciation to educators is vital.
How are you going to honor your teachers this year? We’re thinking bigger than Starbucks gift cards here (though, please, keep them coming).
For example, have you considered how Teacher Appreciation Week can impact your big picture strategy?
Making teacher appreciation a foundation of your ECE center leads to a better organization.
It fosters a culture that staff want to be part of. This supports lower turnover, greater resilience amid challenges, and a better quality of life in and out of the classroom for teachers.
Happier teachers equate to better equipped teachers, which lead to better student outcomes and family experiences.
Sounds pretty good to us.
Let’s turn Teacher Appreciation Week into Teacher Appreciation Year with these long-game practices to transform your early childhood center.
Oh, hey there! Looking for more ways to celebrate TAW? Check out these 10 Practical Ways to Make Preschool Teachers Feel Seen and Heard!
“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Appreciation begins with awareness. After all, how can you express gratitude if you’re not clear on what you’re thankful for?
Anyone who is not in the classroom can’t speak to exactly what it’s like for teachers in early childhood education at this moment.
Having a beginner’s mind is crucial to developing an awareness. Adopt the perspective that you’re not the expert – no matter if your title says otherwise.
From there, gain an awareness of all that your teachers do through direct engagement.
Observe your teachers’ classrooms without a rubric for evaluation. Just take in the environment, the students, and the way your staff works with the children. You’ll witness firsthand the stamina, classroom management methods, and creativity teachers are using each day!
Offer hands-on assistance. Prep materials for a craft, straighten up after school, or even act as a teaching assistant for the day! This is another way to directly experience the hard work your teachers are putting in right now.
Attend events your teachers facilitate. Set a calendar notification to attend the class talent show, the release of the butterflies students raise, the game of tag taking place after lunch!
These events – whether they’re formal or informal – take time, energy, effort, and resources for teachers to plan. Be there to learn what great experiences they’re making for students!
When you’re aware of what your teachers do each day, you have more information to advocate for them, provide feedback, and adjust your ECE center’s operations to best support the work happening in classrooms.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes
Appreciation in a vacuum doesn’t illuminate the wonderful accomplishments of teachers. Look for ways to improve communication across your school and demonstrate your appreciation center-wide to awaken the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week!
Here are some ways to incorporate impactful communication methods into your Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond:
Schedule regular one-on-one time with teachers. You’ll learn more about each other as employees and as human beings. Plus, keeping to a regular schedule of communication takes away the fear when a teacher is called into spontaneous meetings.
Plan all staff meetings – but only when it’s beneficial! We want to avoid the dreaded feeling of “this meeting could have been an email.” Purposeful all staff meetings with an agenda are valuable opportunities for leadership to share vision and goals for the future, giving teachers something to look forward to.
It’s also dedicated team-building time, where staff members can highlight their accomplishments or collaboratively problem-solve.
Choose the best communication methods. There can be too many communication options to choose from – in-person dialogue, email, phone calls, social media posts. Make communication easy and straightforward with the software you choose.
Keep in mind: communicating is also listening. Speaking your appreciation is only half the equation. Be ready to listen to who your teachers are, what they need, and how they want to grow.
"I believe inspiring trust with transparency and tenacity is the keystone to doing business." – Ashwin Muthiah
Transparency and honesty are keys to trust. Show your teachers you value them by trusting them with truth.
Your ability to be honest will attract teachers who are a good fit for your organization, and show them they’re valued once hired.
Being transparent can feel vulnerable, but don’t let that dissuade you! The executive who is vulnerable and gushes over their teachers loses no authority by doing so. In fact, being honest with your praise of teachers will enrich their sense of worth in your ECE center.
And if there are challenges in your organization, the teachers likely already have an idea for how to fix them. The effect of leadership trickles down to employees at all levels, including teachers.
Don’t pretend challenges aren’t happening.
Your teachers can feel it when budgets are restricted, enrollment is down, or turnover is high
Be upfront about challenges, honest about intentions and plans to remedy them, and then follow-through (more on that later!). Stay real and true to your mission and what needs to happen to progress.
“Find a perspective that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.” – Dewitt Jones
We cannot talk about Teacher Appreciation Week without addressing celebration! It’s an integral part of this annual week.
Let’s look at different ways celebration can be embedded into your organization’s big picture all year.
First, recognize that people celebrate in different ways. Just like teachers differentiate their instruction for students, consider how you may differentiate the celebrations you offer!
You can even think about it in terms of the five love languages: words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch, and quality time.
Words of affirmation
Acts of service
We’re adapting this point to focus on physical engagement instead of physical touch to ensure respect of personal boundaries.
People may identify with multiple love languages, but some resonate more than others. A celebration for one teacher may be a nightmare for another.
Switching up the way you say “thanks” can mean a lot!
“Brave thoughts, but am I ready to follow through on them?” – Marie Lu, YA author
Gift cards and notes are lovely gestures, but singular actions.
Teachers feel most appreciated when their work is acknowledged, and their already hard job is not made any harder.
Think of it like this: the friend who sends a birthday card once a year is not thought of the same as the friend who calls or drops by for lunch every week.
You don’t have to be family. But you do have to consistently follow through on your efforts to be aware, communicative, transparent, and celebratory of the teachers in your community.
Without follow-through, Teacher Appreciation Week will only ever be a week on the calendar instead of a foundational aspect of your ECE center.
Take time this Teacher Appreciation Week to express your gratitude, and start planning to become an ECE organization that pioneers Teacher Appreciation Year!