Education Opinion

Expanding Recognition

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — May 20, 2014 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

May and June are welcomed for the colorful blossoms, warmth, and sunshine they bring. In schools, this season of promise is accompanied by endings, including assessments that signal the end of learning for the year, the closing down of classrooms, the goodbyes to students who will move on to new teachers and classrooms, and colleagues who are off to do other things over the summer.

This has been another challenging year in education. The continuing struggle to understand and implement the Common Core, new assessment systems for students and teachers, new accountability measures, dwindling resources, and conflicting criticism from the public, have worn many down. To many educators, this spring doesn’t feel like blossoms, and warmth, and sunshine.

Changing the way people feel at the end of the year can send everyone off on a more positive and optimistic note. It will set the tone for the fall that is only one season away. The plays and concerts, art shows, and awards assemblies are all celebrations of hard work by students and teachers. They are followed by graduations. This time of year contains the big rituals and prominent recognition ceremonies. They are our grand examples of the culmination of dedication, perseverance, and good work.

Buried within this story are many acts and accomplishments by students and teachers that go unnoticed and unacknowledged. These little bits of pride, left unspoken, walk out our doors and get hidden. They may have been small acts of courage, kindness, effort, empathy, thoughtfulness, generosity, support, encouragement, understanding, compassion... the little things that make the world a better place. Or, they are those moments where someone with the courage chose to do the right thing. These remarkable acts often drift past our attention as we rush to our next meeting, or deal with an urgent issue.

These last days and weeks of school hold the very best opportunity to make a commitment to acknowledging the little things. Those acts are encouraged when recognized, actually by anyone. These acts are the ones not explicit in a job description of the faculty or grades of students, but they do call us to a higher level of being human. There, most certainly, have been teachers, teaching assistants, teacher aides, secretaries, custodians, lunch staff, bus drivers and crossing guards who have had positive impact on children this year. There are students who have worked at being learners, becoming friends, and many offering generous acts of kindness. There are those who steeped out from being a bystander to say “no” to the bully and protect the bullied. For many it is simply the daily accomplishment of getting to school because it is safe or they want to learn. They leave behind home situations at home that impact their ability to pay attention but they choose to come to us anyway. They try to focus and be part of the school community.

Sometimes, in an effort to recognize the efforts of the people we work with, especially at the end of the school year, we sweep all of this into a well-meaning thank you luncheon, offer awards for specific accomplishments or acts, or issue a public statement of appreciation for “all you have done”. But many will leave wondering if you really know the child they reached or the mini success that changed a life.

Everyone appreciates being seen and acknowledged. During stressful times, it is even more important. So many in teaching and leadership roles are naturals at this. No matter what else is going on, they are present, and connect with eye contact and an exchange that indicates their awareness of the good work and effort being made. It is a matter of good habit. Others let this very important recognition fall into the bucket of a collective, not a personal, acknowledgement or they let it slide altogether.

We encourage school leaders to change how this hard year ends. What if we considered letting staff and students know that we have not missed their contributions and that we appreciate them? What if we walked around and said a few words or sent emails or tweets during these last few weeks as a random act of kindness from us?

A website committed to research and findings is full of suggestions and stories about random acts of kindness. There also exists formal research about the effect of witnessing good deeds, and doing something selfless for others, revealing our own emotional intelligence, kindness and empathy. We are suggesting an innate and simple shift. The easiest way to help people feel good is to let them know we see them, hear them, value them and their actions. If we begin to focus on those little things and recognize them, we can start a shift in what others see and do.

We already subscribe to the idea of recognizing others. After all, we just had “Teacher Recognition Week”. There are the student recognition assemblies, too. But the other weeks of every year offer opportunities to make recognition a more personal and more powerful act. Beginning a new behavior in this season of endings might get noticed. If started now, and allowing this to rise to the top of our “to do” list, perhaps the next school year will begin happier and more optimistically. Who wouldn’t want that?

Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or Email.

The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP