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Appreciating Your Teachers is a Year-long State of Mind

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! For most, that conjures up thoughts of showing your child’s teacher how appreciated he or she is. But for center owners, you’re probably thinking of the teachers, instructors and coaches that work for you. It’s very important for you to show your teachers your appreciation for what they do for your students and your facility. It’s not something that you should assume that they know. And doing it on a regular basis can make a big difference in the happiness factor in your facility and the job satisfaction of your teachers.

You might think, “We just did an appreciation day a couple of months ago. March 5 was Employee Appreciation Day.” But please rethink this if you consider showing appreciation on one day enough.

Can you really tell your teachers you appreciate them too much? No – you  can’t. Your teachers are your “front line.” They are face-to-face with your students every day and you want them to represent the best of what your school is about.  So how do you let them know that you appreciate what they do? Don’t have grandiose budget worries, it doesn’t take lots of money to show appreciation.  It has been proven that cash is not what inspires the most happiness when it comes to employees feeling appreciated. But really illustrating how much you appreciate your teachers does take effort, thought and planning on your part – and it should be done consistently far beyond this one week and especially one day.

So this week during Teacher Appreciation Week, start to incorporate some new actions the way you treat your teachers the whole year through. Regularly show your teachers appreciation by doing these eight pretty simple things – all year long:

#1 Listen. Give them your ear.

Set up one-on-one meetings with each teacher. These don’t have to be long or formal. In fact, they are best as casual conversations. But don’t talk about performance. This isn’t a review. Learn a little more about what their goals and dreams are. What are they passionate about? What do they want to accomplish in their career? What can you do to help them work better. You may find that you can be a catalyst or an inspiration in helping them to fulfill their passion.

Why do this? They understand that you’re not just there to make them do work. You actually care about what they want from life and you want to help them succeed.

#2 Compliment. Give them very specific praise.

Don’t just say great job. Specifically describe what the job was. This takes more effort on your part but it will make a huge difference to the teacher. Sure, you know giving your employees compliments is a good thing. But do you know what kind of compliments are the most valuable?

Suppose one of Jane’s classes had just won an award or competition? Let’s rate three statements as “Good,” “Better,” “Best” that you could compliment them with.

Good: “Thanks for your hard work!”

Better: “Thanks for putting in so much hard work with your class, Jane!”

Best: “Jane, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your hard work in preparing the Tuesday 3:00 class for the competition last weekend. Your routines were creative and the dancers were really polished!”

You don’t want to be general – as in the “Good” compliment. The “Better” version is an improvement because it does call Jane by name, but it still doesn’t show Jane that you are aware of the exact details. The “Best” example shows that you know all of the details. It personally addresses Jane and expresses the details of the honor and the class that won it. Jane now knows that you care enough to keep up with what she and her classes are doing.

Why do this? Jane will feel appreciated and valuable to the business.

#3 Include. Find or give them opportunities.

This may be as simple as asking them to lead a group rehearsal or giving them the opportunity to do a class or workshop. This can be serious career boosting or something that is fun. The more personal you can make it to the goals and passions that you learned about in #1, the more your teacher will enjoy this.

Why do this? Your teachers will appreciate that you’re doing what you can to help them grow and get the most out of their jobs.

#4 Trust. Illustrate your confidence in them.

Your teachers already know that you trust them with the children in your facility. But how can you take this a step further? Make them a lead teacher or give them some training responsibilities with younger teachers. By giving them a little more ownership, you’re showing that you have confidence in the quality of their work and that you don’t feel that you have to worry about them.

Why do this? Showing trust is a huge compliment. And it inspires efforts to achieve even more.

#5 Open up. Appreciate them as people.

Show interest in what your teachers like to do outside of work. Are their children athletes? Is their spouse a scratch golfer? Have they recently moved to a new home? Do they have an interesting hobby? You have to break up the grind a bit and figure out how best to start these conversations. You may need to leave your office door open or pass out home-baked cookies – whatever it takes to get out of the daily rut.

Why do this? You are showing interest in something besides what they are paid to do for your students. In other words, they know that they are people to you, not workhorses. It’s invaluable.

#6 Ask. Show interest in their opinions.

You may not regularly hear feedback from all of your teachers if you don’t seek it out. Some, more vocal personalities may offer it, but you want to know what those who are less vocal think too. When you seek this out, it signals to the teacher that you value their thoughts and appreciate them enough to make them part of your decision making process.

Why do this? When your teachers feel their opinions carry weight, they will offer them more and more honestly. You will get consistent, genuine input.

#7 Treat. Give small individual treats.

While this is pretty obvious, lots of employers overlook it because they think that something little won’t be appreciated. This is far from the truth. It isn’t the size of the gift that matters. It’s the fact that you take the time to get it and you recognize them. A $10 Starbucks card, a car wash gift certificate, a favorite flavor of donut on a morning you know they don’t have time to get breakfast, a gift card to enjoy dinner out with a spouse. You can really put thought into these and personalize them. These are all inexpensive gifts that give you a formal way to illustrate appreciation. You can even make it ceremonial or have a weekly shout-out where you show appreciation for what someone did to go above and beyond during that week.

Why do this? This is actually a tangible display of your appreciation. You’ve done several other things that you cannot insert into a thank you card and present to them, but this you can. And it boosts their self-confidence and  their confidence in your facility by showing other staff that you appreciate what that teacher does.

#8 Thank them. Say it out loud.

One of the most common complaints about employers is that they don’t know what’s going on and don’t pay attention to the work that makes the business run. Don’t be that owner.  All it takes is saying the words, “Thank you!” Be genuine and they will know that you believe they matter to the students and to the business.

Why do this? It shows you’re not the owner with his head in the sand and that you are the owner who cares and appreciates those who contribute to making the business better.

You’ll See the Difference

These eight appreciative actions are pretty much common sense. You may already do some of them some of the time. But to see a real difference in your teachers’ happiness and your workplace environment, make your own initiative to consciously, genuinely and consistently show appreciation to your teachers (and all of your employees for that matter) and you see changes in them.

Be sure that you do these things – not your assistant. It has the most meaning and impact coming from you. And showing appreciation is good for you, too. You will be a better, more engaged and aware owner, as you identify and express your appreciation to those who are helping you to make your business a success.


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