Great teachers are emotionally intelligent and connect with their students and colleagues, they have the understanding that positive relationships are the bedrock of successful schools. This can be emotionally draining and if we do not replenish regularly then it can lead to what I call emotional anorexia.
The emotionally anorexic lose the capacity to maintain meaningful working relationships and everyone suffers, schools full of emotional anorexics look like the zombie apocalypse! As leaders we can avoid this depressing outcome starting with a little appreciation.
In one school, where I was an interim principal, some staff wanted to come in during the summer to meet me. They told me what they liked and didn’t like, how their program was the most important in the school, and what they wanted me to do as a principal. I asked each one, “who are the best teachers or staff members you work with at this school?” Invariably one or two people’s names surfaced. (I found it interesting that those named were not the ones coming in to my office to talk to me).
When school started I visited the classrooms of those named and it was easy to see why they had been singled out by their colleagues. In these classrooms, students were engaged, they knew the teacher cared about them, and was ready to help any individual student understand more fully. I was impressed and left a note in their mailboxes thanking them for what they were doing for our kids.
The next day one of these teachers appeared with tears in her eyes and said that was better than a box of chocolates or a bottle of booze. She had not heard a kind word from an administrator for years.
Another staff member came in, sat down, and started to weep. I told him how many people had told me how good he was and that I agreed. He said no other staff member had ever told him they thought he was a good teacher. What I found troubling was that he was good, everyone else believed he was good, and nobody said it out loud.
This is where you can step up and start making a difference. Notice the good and say it out loud. Share your appreciation.
The research on gratitude is clear. Those who express their appreciation make a big difference in others. AND, you, who deliver the message, get a large dose of dopamine too. Barbara Fredrickson, in her book “Positivity” uses Losada’s number. It takes a 3:1 ratio of good comments to every negative comment to stay even. How about we go for 4:1 plus. Let’s get the energy turned positive. Education is hard enough under the best of circumstances. Let’s do our part in assisting others. You will get more back than you give.
Make someone’s day. They deserve it, AND SO DO YOU.