Teacher Appreciation: No One Likes a Sweaty Teacher

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sweatyteacher 300x199 Teacher Appreciation: No One Likes a Sweaty TeacherIt had been a long, hot and muggy Chicago summer. I was the principal of a private school that had decided to move to a new building, and I had spent countless hours over that summer overseeing the move. Unfortunately, I was not the only one whose summer was significantly disrupted. Each teacher was busy boxing his or her classroom materials, a task that could not commence until school had let out. It was a tedious job that did not do much to enhance teacher morale.


There was, however, a silver lining in the cloud of discontent. Our new school building boasted an expansive parking lot which would afford ample space for staff to park close to the building. Anyone who has lived through a Chicago winter knows that those extra few minutes from car to building can truly make a difference.


You can only imagine my shock and dismay when on September 1st the school board chairman informed me that teachers would not have access to the parking spaces closest to the building. Those spots, I was told, were reserved for the parent body, our most important resource. My objections fell on deaf ears. The board chairman reasoned that this was no different than the mall down the block, which mandated its employees to park far from the building entrance, reserving choice spots for paying customers. That January I resigned and became headmaster of a school in a city whose climate (both inside and outside) was much warmer.


I recently was invited to take part in a board meeting where a school budget ‘crisis’ was solved by increasing teaching loads. “Cutting the fat” and “sweating the resources” were the terms used. Over my strong objections, the motion passed. The school has since never been the same.


To this day I am consistently dumbfounded by boards that do not realize where their most important resource lies: in front of the classroom. School budget cuts frequently result in slashing teacher benefits without realizing the demoralizing effect this has on the staff and how this impacts the entire educational enterprise. Teaching is not the same as working at the mall, and ‘sweating the resources’ may work at a factory, but in a school it only nets you sweaty teachers. And no one likes sweaty teachers.


What’s most interesting is that it’s not necessarily about the money; it’s about teacher appreciation. Teachers need to feel valued; a parking spot in front of the school is one example. It’s about school leadership caring about teachers and looking for ways to show just how important they are. It’s about a genuine “How are you?” truly joyous “Happy Birthday!” or a short note saying, “Thanks for all you do.” None of the above costs a penny.


There is a statistic I read which reports that half of those who enter the teaching profession leave within five years. As the school year ends there will be thousands of educators contemplating fulfillment in other capacities. While there are many reasons people seek a change of profession, school leaders must make sure that they have not contributed to this disturbing trend. I would strongly suggest that board heads park far away from the school building and use the time spent walking to think about how they can best appreciate a teacher today.

5 Responses to Teacher Appreciation: No One Likes a Sweaty Teacher

  1. Diane Hunt says:

    School boards would do better if they understood teachers do not enter the teaching career to make lots of money but to make a difference. Teachers respond to displays of geniune appreciation that does not cost loads of money.

    • Karmi Gross says:

      I could not agree more. This is precisely why teachers respond so well to even the smallest show of appreciation; because it shows they are indeed making a difference.

  2. Judy Egan says:

    Well, at the risk of opening a huge can of worms…first let me emphatically say that YES, teachers should be supported and appreciated and fairly compensated for all of their efforts, as most know they occur and extend beyond the classroom. It is the teachers that are on the front lines everyday, working to make the most important resource, the STUDENTS, succeed.

    However, you need to separate school building leadership and morale boosting from the distrct level. The school board is charged with setting policies, approving budgets and curriculum, eyc., to allow administrators and staff to provide the best education possible within the finite realm of available resources. The board members do not do the day-to-day work and are not in each building everyday to say “happy birthday” or “how are you?”. Those types of appreciation should spring from the building level administration and other staff.

    A board technically has only 1 employee that it hires and fires: the superintendent. It directs the superintendent to carry out his or her duties in accordance with the district policies and state and federal mandates. The superintendent then acts with his or her staff and directs building level staff to implement programs and services accordingly.

    Approximately 80% of a district’s budget is related to staff compensation and benefits; the remainder for buildings, state and federal mandates (increasingly under- or unfunded), instructional programs, food service, transportation, etc. Therefore, when dollars need to be saved, school boards focus on the larger expenditure area first rather than go straight to areas that might mean eliminating programs or services. That is the fiscal reality. Cutting salaries and benefits does hurt and often has regrettable consequences, but at times they are unavoidable–not necessarily to say “you are not appreciated.”

    In this case, I’m not sure why a school board chairman is dictating which spots at a particular building must be saved for visitors, although it does make sense to have parking available for parents, especially when you want to encourage them to work with staff to support their children. Also, parents come and go and stay for often short period, while staff generally arrive in the morning and leave late in the day. Still, it does not seem to be a policy issue per se, so I wonder why the board chairman weighed in.

    • Karmi Gross says:

      I apologize for not specifying that this was a private school with significantly different board structure than is common in public education.

  3. Omar Ghareeb says:

    Seeking appreciation? find it at your students, if you find it walk a hundred miles in rainy or sunny climate it will be nothing, this appreciation is everything.
    If you don’t find it there walk away or accept what principal and chairman offers

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