Appreciate Teachers Year-Round by Developing a Culture of Innovation
It’s that time of year again. Wildflowers are blooming (at least here in Texas!). The sun is setting later. Winter jackets are being retired. The season is changing around us, just as it is in our schools. Around the country, test prep and standardized testing season are in full swing. End-of-year projects and field trips are approaching – and teacher appreciation week is coming up in the second week in May!
As a teacher, it warmed my heart to receive kind words and tokens of appreciation from students, families, and administrators during teacher appreciation week, and I especially valued these thoughtful expressions as my emotional gas tank was running on empty during this stressful time of year. As a school leader, I organized massage chair appointments and sweet treats delivered to classrooms with the goal of making sure our teachers knew how much their work and contributions mattered to our school and community. While these gestures are important, thoughtful, and uplifting, one week of appreciation is simply not enough to propel the kind of lasting culture that truly highlights and amplifies the profound work of our teachers year-round.
To demonstrate genuine and meaningful appreciation for teachers that lasts beyond one week in May, school and district leaders must elevate teachers as experts and create an environment in which they can do their very best work every single day. To facilitate this environment, let’s explore the 5 Ingredients to Create a Culture of Innovation.
First, start with a self assessment. Which ingredient do you believe to be a consistent strength for your school or district? Which ingredient might be most lacking? Gather evidence to support these reflections, and gain input from other leaders and most importantly teachers to pressure test this evaluation.
Next, consider the opportunities you already have and can create between now and the end of the school year, including during Teacher Appreciation Week, to intentionally add a few dashes of each ingredient. Are there acts of recognition you may already have planned for Teacher Appreciation Week that you can modify to build a culture of innovation that truly supports teachers to do their best work? Ask yourself whether these gestures of appreciation:
- Demonstrate deep trust
- Connect to our shared purpose to motivate + inspire teachers
- Provide opportunities for learning and support passion projects
- Build opportunities for diverse collaboration
- Highlight risk taking
Lastly, begin planning for welcoming teachers back for the 2019-2020 school year. What structures and supports can be built or adjusted to infuse the 5 Ingredients to Create a Culture of Innovation at the start of the new school year? When and how will you intentionally fan the flames of innovation in September? December? January or March?
When we are as intentional about building and spreading a culture of innovation in our schools as we are about the gifts we give teachers during the second week of May, we will successfully acknowledge and appreciate the work and worth of our teachers in a more robust, lasting, and meaningful way.
For more concrete ideas on how to celebrate teachers and bring innovative practice into your culture, check out the blog posts 10 Tips for Creating a Culture of Innovation in Schools and Districts, and 40 Ways to Celebrate Teachers and Impact Teacher Retention. Also see our 8 Elements of Teacher Retention for a deeper dive!
About Maggie Hodge
Maggie Hodge is a Design Principal on the Design and Implementation Team. After working as a student teacher in college, she began her career in education as a Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher in New Orleans public schools. In addition to her role as a teacher, Maggie has served as an RTI chair, grade level leader, school leader, and district level leader in traditional public schools and charter schools in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Austin. Maggie holds an M.Ed in Administration and Supervision, and pursues educational equity by focusing on school leader development, instructional coaching best practices, new teacher development, and innovative classroom design. In her spare time Maggie can be found in the yoga or spin studio, paddle boarding, or spending time with loved ones and her dog, Gizmo.