Teachers, Appreciate Yourselves
Teacher Appreciation Day used to be agonizing. I’d anticipate the day with all kinds of hopes and dreams. I’d imagine that students, their parents and my administrators would show appreciation in a way that matched the effort I’d invested. I was always disappointed.
Sure, there were usually some really meaningful cards from kids, and the annual bagel breakfast was nice. But I always felt let down because there was really no way that anyone else could truly see the energy I put into my work as a teacher — the only person who could see that was me.
Teachers, like most humans, crave appreciation. Teachers deserve and need appreciation. And students, parents and administrators could definitely refine their ability to offer meaningful appreciation more than once a year. Teacher appreciation should also be extended through education policies that value the work teachers do — and that includes teachers’ salaries.
But there’s a way you can meet many of your needs for appreciation yourself, by engaging in self-appreciation and recognizing the work you do every day. This is not an either/or – the outside world needs to acknowledge you and you need to appreciate yourself.
What does this look or sound like? Try these simple practices:
1. Select three things that went well each day. Be sure to identify your role in making those things happen. Here are a couple of examples:
“My lesson on understanding character development in the novel we’re reading went really well, and Mark, who usually never talks, was really engaged. My role in making that happen was that I spent a lot of time planning this lesson and tried a new discussion structure.”
“Another teacher dropped off some supplies that I can use for a science lesson, and now I can actually teach the unit. My role in making that happen was that I sent out an email asking for supplies.”
2. At the end of each day or week, write yourself a letter of appreciation. I know it sounds corny, but you don’t have to share it with anyone — and if you try it, you might really enjoy it.
Here are a few sentences I wrote to myself during a particularly difficult year: “I appreciate that you weren’t really frustrated today with your first period. I know they are challenging and push your buttons, but you stayed calm and patient with them.”
No one else could appreciate how hard it was for me to manage this group of students, but when I started appreciating myself, I felt different.
3. Set an alarm on your phone to go off a few times a day. When it goes off, allow it to remind you to appreciate yourself right there, in that moment. You might be surprised at how you can catch yourself doing something really valuable that you otherwise wouldn’t register.
The first time I did this, my alarm went off as I stood in the school hallway talking to a grandmother about her fears that her grandson had a learning disability. This was the kind of thing I would have done without a second thought, and I wouldn’t have registered the moment as one in which I was doing something worthy and important. When my alarm went off, I simply took in the moment, thanked myself for taking the time to talk to the grandma and continued the conversation.
Teachers have a right to be appreciated by others. And, teachers, we need to appreciate ourselves. You will just feel better if you do, and you’ll feel grounded in your contributions to children. With that energy, you’ll be better equipped to advocate for the appreciation, respect, rights and salary that you deserve.
This article was originally published on Edutopia, to which Elena Aguilar regularly contributes. Aguilar was an educator for 12 years before becoming a Transformational Leadership Coach. She has also written books, including The Art of Coaching.