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Why Appreciating Teachers Is More Important Than You Think

Why Appreciating Teachers Is More Important Than You Think

Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us. As always, this annual recognition couldn't come a moment too soon.

As someone who spends a lot of time visiting schools across the country, I am consistently amazed at the tireless and heroic work of teachers at every level of education. Frankly, I see many teachers who deserve a standing ovation every day for their high-quality work.

Unfortunately, the data suggest we have a long way to go. According to Gallup research, only 25% of teachers strongly agree with the statement, "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work."

This statistic is troubling. I'm sure it does not reflect how most of us feel about the teachers we know, and especially the ones who really touched our lives.

Of course, most of us acknowledge the value of recognition in the abstract. And we can all remember times when we received praise for our own work.

The Real Value of Feeling Valued

Recognition isn't just about feeling good. Gallup research shows that consistent recognition for doing good work has a direct influence on the key performance measures that we use to evaluate our schools.

Teachers who receive regular recognition and praise:

  • are more productive
  • are more engaged at work
  • are more likely to stay with their school
  • are more likely to receive higher satisfaction scores from students and parents

Strictly from a performance perspective, it's clear that when we fail to recognize our best teachers, we are leaving our schools' potential on the table.

In an era of school board politics and budget woes, recognizing teachers is an easy win for any community. It does not require a significant investment of money or time.

Nevertheless, our research shows that recognition needs to be individualized and authentic. Ideally, administrators should create what we call a "recognition-rich environment" with praise coming from all directions -- and not just during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Who knows, maybe doing these things will also influence your students … their parents … the world.

How Full Is Your Teacher's Bucket?

It has been nearly two decades since Gallup published How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Don Clifton. Yet, in nearly every school district I visit, I still see the book-inspired "water drop" stationery and copies of that book on the shelves.

The authors' simple metaphor -- that we all have a bucket that needs to be filled with recognition -- still rings true all these years later. Who knew a little book could change so many lives?

One of my favorite pieces of advice from the book is to "Reverse the Golden Rule." Instead of doing unto others what we would have done unto us, we should treat people how they want to be treated:

The only way you can be sure you are right about what fills other people's buckets is to ask them.

Only 10% of employees have been asked how they like to be recognized at work. My advice to school administrators is this: Take a moment to ask teachers how they like to be recognized. They may appreciate notes or public recognition, or perhaps a small gift or special responsibility.

The important thing is to discover their individual needs, recognize good work when you see it and offer timely recognition in the way that means the most to them.

Gallup's research-based approach to recognition can transform your school. Order your copy of How Full Is Your Bucket? -- Expanded Educator's Edition.

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Tim Hodges, Ph.D., is a Senior Consultant at Gallup.

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