Teacher Appreciation week is next Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.
So last week I left us wondering: what creates the kind of teacher stress that compromises wellbeing and leads to high attrition rates? The truth is, there are a plethora of factors that contribute to the issue and there are numerous ways that we might classify and evaluate these factors. But one of the themes that emerges is the lack of appreciation that teachers feel. That is an oversimplification, of course, but a real problem none-the-less. For the sake of this series and this particular post, I am going to break this down to two types of appreciation.
The first type of appreciation relates primarily to “me” (school and district leaders) and the ways that I can help my teachers to know and understand that they are appreciated. This includes a variety of variables such as autonomy, empowerment, decision making processes, distributed leadership, opportunities for collaboration and peer feedback, work environment, professional development, pedagogical support, flexibility, peer connections, and student relationships.
The other type of appreciation relates to you the parents (and maybe even the students who are reading this). A number of authors have written about the important role that parents play in promoting teachers’ wellbeing. Here are two pieces that especially caught my attention:
One research project in particular explored teacher-pupil, teacher-teacher, and teacher-parent relationships and the impact of each on teachers’ pedagogical wellbeing–specifically, the frequency that teachers viewed each relationship to be either (a) empowering and engaging or (b) stressful and burdensome. The authors concluded that student relationships have the greatest influence on teachers’ wellbeing, student and colleague relationships have the greatest positive impact on teachers wellbeing, and parent interactions tend to be more stressful than empowering for teachers (Soini et al. 2010). More specifically, “If parents were not interested in their child’s education or questioned the teacher’s pedagogical efforts and authority, the situation was considered problematic and burdensome by the teachers” (Soini et al., 2010, p. 743).
Yildirim (2014) noted that parent appreciation was a key component of teachers’ professional wellbeing and concluded that “Initiatives to develop teachers’ professional well-being should focus on … opportunities to appreciate them for their efforts” (p. 74).
So what might this mean for parents?
Well, I would suggest that teachers definitely need something from parents. First, teachers need you to be involved in your child’s education. This can be tricky. Over-involvement can not only be counterproductive to your child’s education and growth but also might drive teachers nuts. On the flip side of the coin, a lack of involvement can be frustrating for teachers and leave them feeling very alone and unappreciated. So please be involved in your child’s education.
But in addition to your involvement, teachers also need to know that you understand, respect, value, and appreciate the work that they do each day. They bring an incredible amount of heart to the hours of education, study, and ongoing professional development that it takes to be a teacher in the 21st century. They need to hear, see, and feel your appreciation in tangible ways. I believe (and research suggests) that in so doing, you will help to promote the wellbeing of teachers. This, in turn, will benefit your children, leading to better relationships with their teachers and improved achievement (there is actually research to document that).
Next week is teacher appreciation week. Please take a second to show our teachers some heartfelt appreciation with a sincere note, a gift card to Starbucks or a restaurant, a Caribbean cruise (wait a minute…that might be a bit much), or some other honest heartfelt gesture. Even just taking the time to look them in the eye, shake their hand, and say “thank you” can go a very, very long way.
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Banerjee, N., Stearns, E., Moller, S., & Mickelson, R. A. (2017). Teacher Job Satisfaction and Student Achievement: The Roles of Teacher Professional Community and Teacher Collaboration in Schools. American Journal of Education, 123(2), 203-241. doi:10.1086/689932
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