Lack of recognition and appreciation is one of the many reasons why teachers are leaving the profession, which contributes to the high teacher attrition rates across the country. Unfortunately, feeling undervalued has been the case for teachers for many years now. In fact, in 2015, eight out of 10 teachers did not feel their profession was valued by society (Tes). It could even be the case that your district’s culture and climate surveys have shown that teachers in your district feel undervalued and would like more recognition for their work.
So how can you drive teacher wellbeing with recognition strategies to remedy this?
Recognition strategies are steps school leaders can take to show appreciation to their staff, such as teachers, and recognize all the things they do that make them a great teacher. There are many features that make a great teacher, but one main feature district leaders should recognize in their teachers is attitude. A teacher’s attitude plays an important role in their student’s development since attitude could make or break a teacher-student relationship, and ultimately have an impact on student academic success and social emotional progress.
This blog aims to demonstrate the importance of recognition strategies for teacher wellbeing and give examples of measures you can take in your district to improve.
What should a good teacher recognition strategy achieve?
A good teacher recognition strategy should achieve many things and bring various benefits to the whole school environment. For example, taking the time to recognize a great teacher can improve teacher wellbeing by encouraging teachers to feel good about their achievements. It can also help promote a positive culture in which school stakeholders are naturally encouraged to show appreciation for others on their own accord. When leaders begin practicing these strategies, especially in front of others, it sets a good example for the rest of the community. Teacher morale and motivation will also increase, which in turn (given they work in close proximity) will have a positive impact on student happiness, too.
Furthermore, showing teachers that you value and respect their work will help form a stronger bond between them and the schools they work in - people are more likely to stay in environments where they’re appreciated and valued. This will decrease teacher turnover, which not only massively benefits students and their academic achievements but also builds stronger school communities.
How do I know which teachers in particular deserve appreciation?
District leaders are busy, oversee many responsibilities, and are unlikely to have the time to visit every classroom and observe teachers in action. For this reason, you should implement feedback systems that continuously monitor thoughts and feelings in your district. If you’re keeping your finger on the pulse with regular school culture and climate surveys, you’ll have a good idea of how stakeholders feel toward teachers. Both staff surveys and student surveys should assess their feelings about the teaching staff in their district and this should also be monitored regularly throughout the year.
Additionally, use a simple communication platform that allows any community stakeholder to feedback to you at their convenience. The best feedback platforms should not only be used for concerns and complaints but also encourage positive feedback and compliments. With this in place, you can always stay in the loop with teachers that are going the extra mile and have been recognized for this by other stakeholders. Feedback could be sent from one staff member showing appreciation for another, or from parents pleased with the way a teacher helped their child. The latter is especially important since 76% of teachers believe the lack of respect from parents is a serious or very serious problem (GBAO, 2022).
Your Voice is a site-embedded platform that allows stakeholders to have questions, comments, suggestions, and compliments sent directly to the appropriate response team
What are some examples of good teacher recognition strategies?
The best teacher recognition strategies happen throughout the year on a regular basis and they should always be authentic. Here are some examples of good teacher recognition strategies that can either occur regularly or on a one-off basis.
Everyone likes to know when they’re doing something well, and teachers are no different. Shoutouts to teachers that deserve the recognition can come in all shapes and sizes. There are some examples below.
Note, however, that the more overt recognition strategies may not suit the personalities of all teachers - exercise good judgment when deciding how to show appreciation to a particular teacher.
- Leave a sticky note on their classroom door to say thank you for a time they went the extra mile or to say ‘well done’ on a recent achievement.
- Making visits to classrooms and congratulating/thanking teachers in front of their class. This helps promote a culture of recognition and reward by setting an example for the students.
- Does your school have morning or weekly announcements? Why not take that time to shout out to a teacher who’s stood out to you that week!
- Online shoutouts are a good way to show appreciation for teachers while involving all school stakeholders, such as parents and caregivers. If you have a school social media account, why not post a short message of appreciation there (don’t forget to tag the teacher!)? Doing this will have the added benefit of improving communications in the school community and helping external stakeholders feel more connected.
The best teacher recognition strategies happen throughout the year on a regular basis and they should always be authentic.
Another way to show appreciation for your teachers is to start an award process during staff meetings. These don’t have to be big plaques or expensive gifts, but rather simply a token of appreciation to give to the teacher. It’s even better if they can display this in their classroom! Potential awards you could use include:
- School Culture Champion
- School Safety Champion
- Teacher of the Month
- SEL Champion
- Living Our Values Award
- Strongest Stakeholder Communicator
Alternatively, let the teachers pick their own rewards! A staff/teacher rewards program allows them agency in their own prices, so they can pick the reward they’d like most. You could facilitate this by awarding points, which teachers can then build up to ‘buy’ prizes.
Are these recognition strategies not suitable for your teachers? Ask them directly how they’d like to be rewarded and the ways in which they would feel the most appreciated.
The most important thing - be thankful right away
When a teacher goes above and beyond, thank them right away. Regardless if your school implements rewards programs or awards in meetings, just saying "thank you" or "I appreciate you/this/what you do" is one of the most effective ways to show appreciation. By recognizing the growth, work, and achievements of teachers throughout the year, you’re showing them that they’re valued every day and not just a few times a year. This is hugely powerful when aiming to improve morale, wellbeing, happiness, and performance among your teachers.
Eight in 10 teachers feel undervalued by society. (2015). Tes. Read it here.
International Survey: U.S. Teachers Are Overworked, Feel Underappreciated. (2019). US News. Read it here.
Poll Results: Stress And Burnout Pose Threat Of Educator Shortages. (2022). GBAO. Read it here.