We asked teachers to share the best ways (and one worst way, too) their principals show appreciation for their work. In dozens of responses, teachers said Time—as in more time to plan, more time to prepare, less time in meetings, a surprise break—was the runaway favorite gesture of thanks from principals.
1. [The] best thing a principal can do is value teachers’ time. For instance, keep meetings short and allow adequate time to plan and prep rooms at the beginning of the year.
2. The best in my experience were gifts of time or choice. Or ... simple words of encouragement, spoken or written. All costing $0! They are all ways to make teachers feel like a professional, not just another evaluation. The worst: a poorly printed coupon stating that we could sign up for a day to take the principal’s parking spot.
3. I always appreciated my boss coming down and simply saying thank you, in person.
4. As a surprise, [the principal] takes the bus duty or recess duty and gives you the unexpected gift of time. The thing I think is most important for an administrator is to actually put teachers first, so teachers can put students first.
5. Appreciation shouldn’t be a one time event. It’s deeply embedded in the culture of the school. [My principal] drops by, shares the beauty of what he sees weekly, acknowledges successes in meetings, constant bragging about how great we are, has admin bake for our Dec. coffeehouse meeting.
6. [Our principal] hand wrote each of the staff members a note expressing gratitude to us. The information had a portion of uniqueness and was placed on our desks.
7. In my experience, the best way to build up a good relationship with teachers is simply listening to them, understanding their needs and looking for ways to satisfy them. Sometimes congratulations or rewards might even have a negative effect because teachers get used to extrinsic motivation.
8. Our teaching time is never interrupted with unnecessary assemblies or meetings!
9. Freedom and professional independence ... [is the] greatest sense of appreciation and have led to better teaching. And assuming positive intent.
10. We have a Google Classroom for the teachers. The principal is constantly in our classes. If he takes a picture of the students working/the walls/your board ... you know he was impressed and thinks the other teachers may benefit from whatever you are doing.
A version of this article appeared in the October 16, 2019 edition of Education Week as Thank You!