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Today’s One Thing for Leaders: Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week from a Distance

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Jeremy Jones

The Learning Accelerator

This year, Teacher Appreciation Week takes place during May 4-8. Around this time in a more typical year, schools across the country would be planning to celebrate teachers inside of their walls in all kinds of creative ways – but even as we contend with disruptions caused by a global pandemic, it is as important as ever to celebrate our teachers and the tireless work they’re doing.

This week’s big question is this: How can we celebrate teachers from a distance during Teacher Appreciation Week?

Celebration is a key aspect of any thriving culture of teacher engagement. Gallup found that a lack of teacher engagement has led to millions of missed days of work and shared that recognition is one of the pillars of truly engaged teacher teams. Incorporating celebration is one important way for leaders to boost teacher morale and build community. The good news is that there is no shortage of great ways to do this while maintaining physical distancing.

Ways to Celebrate Teachers from a Distance

  • Engage parent teams for e-gift cards: For most schools, it can be difficult to simply purchase virtual gift cards for teachers due to budgetary guidelines, but this is where parent teams might want to step in. Schoool leaders that work with teams of parents or key parent ambassadors in the community can leverage their leadership to gather donations that go directly to purchasing e-gift cards for teachers.
  • Ask students to create thank-you posters: A quick way to boost morale is by having students create digital artifacts representing their gratitude toward their teachers. Connect directly with students and ask them to create thank-you posters to hold up while they’re attending their online classes during Teacher Appreciation Week to generate excitement and orchestrate a fun surprise. Consider taking this idea to the next level by creating a collage of the posters, printing them, and sending them to teachers as keepsakes.
  • Encourage teachers to show appreciation for each other: Strong teacher teams are powerful forces of generosity and support. Indeed, no one can really understand teacher struggles like other teachers. To ensure educators have the chance to celebrate each other, you may host an online lunch with your teachers to share some kind words and give teachers the opportunity to shout-out each other for their hard work. You could also create a Google Doc for each teacher and ask your teachers to fill up these virtual spaces with appreciations, stories, favorite moments, and accomplishments. A platform like GiveTHX could be worth a try, as well.

Three Ideas to Get Started

  • Thank-you notes from the principal: If you’re short on time or money, consider writing brief thank-you notes to each of your teachers. This personal touchpoint will, without a doubt, mean a lot to your teachers who are working incredibly hard right now.
  • School leader “Zoom Boom:” Under normal circumstances, you might drop by each of your teachers' classrooms to say thank you and share a few kind words in front of their students. In remote settings, this is still possible! Consider popping into a remote classroom to accomplish the same thing. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your appearance won’t cause additional disruptions to learning, but if you’re able to pull it off, you can help make teachers feel appreciated and noticed.
  • Generate appreciation for teachers everywhere: As we’ve shifted to spending much of our days online, many are taking advantage of the power of the internet to send positive messages – just take John Krasinski’s popular "Some Good News" series as an example. Create a video and post it on social media to publicly commend your teachers for a job well done and express your appreciation for educators around the world.

Some Other Ideas We Found

  • This teacher parade, organized by a student at a Wisconsin elementary school, created a moment of magic for teachers.
  • PTO Today shared a number of creative ideas to use for Teacher Appreciation Week that can be modified for remote settings.
  • School leaders and parents can share these virtual cards from Edutopia to celebrate teachers.

Next Steps

Next week is a chance for us all to celebrate some very important people in our lives: our teachers. I hope that you take the opportunity to connect in authentic ways to show your teacher teams the generosity they deserve. Even when our capacity is stretched the thinnest, making a difference can be as easy as taking time to share some kind words with our educators. Let us know how you plan to celebrate your teachers by tweeting us @LearningAccel.

As we march toward the month of May, we know the work of schools continues throughout the spring and leads to an important time: teacher hiring season. Next week, we will be sharing resources and tools to support teacher hiring so that you can continue to recruit, select, and hire the best teachers for your school.

Jeremy Jones

Jeremy Jones

The Learning Accelerator

Jeremy Jones is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator, where he brings insight to TLA's schools and systems strategy work. Jeremy has spent 15 years working alongside students and families in schools across the country to close the academic achievement gap.