Tell Them NOW!

Tell Them NOW!

Teaching a group of students or adults can be exhausting!  Teaching takes time, energy and there is an enormous amount of planning that goes into executing an effective lesson. Recently, after a day of presenting to a group of educators I was ready to fly to my next destination and de-escalate.  I boarded a flight with every intention to relax, have a water, and read. The lady next to me had other plans, she was there to socialize!  I cannot resist an outgoing person, so I ended up talking with her most of the four-hour flight. She told me a variety of things about her life.  She shared how her brother had passed when they were teenagers and how she wished she would have told him how much she cared when he was here.  She has been carrying this pain around for over forty years.  I quickly thought of all the funerals I have attended where everyone speaks so highly of the person who has passed and often shares stories of admiration about this person.  Why do we wait until the funeral to share so many positives? Why don’t we share now? Are we afraid to share our feelings openly with others? We need to Tell Them NOW!

Tell Them Now at School – Staff

Do not wait until tomorrow, let your colleagues know how much you appreciate them today.  Often times, these people know so many of our joys and sorrows, let them know now they are important to you.  As a principal, I wanted my staff to know I truly appreciated their dedication to our students. One simple gesture I did was mail handwritten notes to each staff member’s home address and in the note included my appreciation for them with examples.  Many commented to me about how much this hand written note meant to them. Thanksgiving was another time that always inspired me to also send home a “thankful note” to staff to their home so they would receive it over the Thanksgiving break.  In the note, I indicated why I was thankful for their contribution to our school.

During staff appreciation week I contacted the local McDonald’s to see if they would donate breakfast for staff, and they did.  It was one phone call, and it made a huge difference to the staff.  I also contacted the local educator insurance agency to see if they would donate a lunch for staff.  You can do these special acts of kindness any time, it does not have to be staff appreciation week.

More simple ideas for appreciation:

  • A positive note in a staff member’s mailbox
  • A note with a lifesaver attached to thank them for helping you
  • A pack of Extra gum in each mailbox – thank you for going the “Extra mile”
  • Any type of candy with a quick note attached is appreciated
  • Make coffee for the staff one morning, bring in some flavored syrup and creamers, this will create a buzz in the lounge in the morning with a positive vibe
  • A note of thanks to the staff with a small homemade treat or fruit tray will send waves of sound throughout the building to rush to the lounge

Tell Them Now at School – Students

Students appreciate actual mail sent to their home!  As a principal, I would send positive notes home to students, the notes included different themes depending who I was sending the note to that day.  There were other days I would leave a positive note for a student on their desk.  Kids crave interaction with adults, take time to recognize this need.

Slowing down and talking with kids and letting them know you appreciate their leadership or another characteristic is another way to express gratitude and build relationships with students.  Spending time with students during a lunch time round table is another great way to solicit feedback and emphasize your appreciation. Our school also created “Character Cards” where staff could hand out cards to students and each Friday, students that were randomly chosen from the cards would be highlighted.

More simple ideas for appreciation:

  • Thanking them for helping another student (note or verbally)
  • Thanking them for outstanding behavior (note or verbally)
  • Recognizing a special talent (music, talent show, art, etc.)
  • Congratulating them for fundraising, student of the month, etc.
  • Expressing appreciation for their joy, smile, kindnesses or other character trait
  • Simply stating that you are glad they are in school, especially for students that have been absent
  • Attend an event outside of school that is important to a student (the students’ game, musical, concert, etc.)

Tell Them Now – Parents

When I was in high school, my superintendent sent my parents a note in the mail indicating what a great job I had done representing my classmates at the school board meeting.  I can assure you my parents were pleased and I still have that note, thirty-two years later. Parents are proud of their children, we always must remember that child is often the center of their universe.  Parents and staff working together is the best scenario possible for student success.

More simple ideas for appreciation:

  • Coffee with the teacher and/or principal – thank the parents
  • Have a special morning where you serve coffee to parents in the morning when students arrive
  • Notes mailed home for something positive
  • VIP day – encourage parents to attend a scheduled lunch or day with their child and be visible during this time

Tell Them Now at Home – Family

Educators lead busy lives and are often consumed with thoughts of lesson plans, behavior plans, learning targets, standards, accommodations, and their students.  It is easy to become engrossed in every aspect of your work, therefore it is critical to make sure your family knows how much you appreciate them as well.  We become so focused on our students, it is important to give our own children validation and appreciation. I want to make sure that my son knows how proud I am of him, he is a kind, caring, and compassionate person.

  • More simple ideas for appreciation:
  • Have post it notes on the mirror with positive messages
  • Place a note in their backpack with a positive message
  • If you are at a conference, mail them a card to arrive when you are gone, letting them know you are thinking about them
  • If you are attending a late meeting, have a note under their pillow indicating why you are thankful they are in your life
  • Spend time during a meal to really listen and make sure all electronics are out of reach

Tell Them Now at Professional Learning – Colleagues

I am so fortunate to work with a talented team of educators.  Many of us have professional learning networks that expand from professional organizations to graduate classes.  We are constantly learning, growing and pushing each other’s thinking.  Collaborating and sharing learning experiences is at the core of what we do.  Many of us are presenting or planning professional learning for staff and other educators.  When the load for planning for a professional learning experience is shared, it helps the presenters and the audience. More knowledge is harvested from all. It is fantastic when you have a crew that you work closely with and who supports your growth and work.  It is time to tell  these colleagues how much you are grateful they are on this journey with you.  Jon Wennstrom is a principal in Michigan and he is doing just this, he is “telling them now”, he spends has a Saturday “Shout Out” for people who have inspired him as an educator.  This is an excellent way to “Tell Them Now”!

I was asked a year ago to work on a project with Western Michigan University, they were awarded a $12.5 million dollar grant to help schools with literacy and leadership.  I am honored and thrilled to be part of such an impactful project. During this time, I met Derek Wheaton, a former elementary principal. We were strangers at first, but quickly realized that not only were our dogs were both “Career Change” dogs (they did not pass the program) from Paws with a Cause, but the dogs were brother and sister!  Imagine our surprise as we discovered, we were related via our dogs!  Over the last year, Derek and I have become close collaborative professional colleagues.  He is fun, caring, and lives to build up other educators, especially principals, his heart belongs to principals. Derek always focuses on relationships building with a twist of fun in our professional learning workshops that we conduct. Derek has the audience in the room laughing, learning and moving. An activity that Derek utilized in the last professional development session is Rock, Paper, Scissors 2.0 and I have listed it below in case you would like to use it. I thoroughly enjoy working with him and admire his loyalty, dedication, and compassion. He would help anyone out in any circumstance. I have not told him how much I appreciate him, but I will be sending him this blog post.

More simple ideas for appreciation:

  • Bring your coworker their favorite coffee, tea, or treat
  • Leave them a positive note
  • Cover their class an hour or recess duty
  • Share a positive example of what they are doing with kids at a staff meeting.  Recognizing someone in public is not done often enough and it is so important.
  • Check in on them if they are having a rough day, week, or month!

Take time to appreciate yourself!  Schedule a short walk, massage, or find time to get away and read.  As educators we are in the mode of “Do For”, we want to help others and solve problems.  We need to nurture our own well being in the process!

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. GREAT writing and advice Dorothy. Enjoyed it!

    1. Thanks Holly, my goal is do demonstrate appreciation! 🙂

  2. Good advice! I will use some of these ideas to show appreciation to my aides and students.

    1. Thanks Laura. I hope you have a fantastic week!

  3. Thanks for sharing Dorothy, I will definitely use some of these ideas to show appreciation to the staff and students. We have good Samaritan and Student of the Month that staff nominate, the students love it.

    1. Thanks Sheryl and thanks for sharing. I am sure the students enjoy being highlighted!

  4. Thank you for the great ideas.

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