Don’t save your praises for the eulogy!

My dad was a very wise man. No, he didn’t have a university degree, but he had common sense and wisdom that he claimed he acquired while attending “the school of hard knocks”.dad-cropped-600x452He said, “It is too bad that we often save our praise of individuals for their funeral. It would be so much better if we complimented and paid tribute to them while they were living.”

As I get older and attend more funerals, my dad’s words of wisdom remind me that we all need to spend more time thanking and acknowledging the little things that people do to make the world a better place. Take time to thank individuals who have improved your day. Perhaps it’s a waitress who made certain that your young child was provided with a coloring book and crayons while waiting in the restaurant. Did you pause to reflect on the cheery “Have a great day!” greeting that the gas pump attendant passed along to you? Do you give a wave of thanks to the motorist behind you who allows you to transfer into his/her lane? Did you acknowledge the individual who emailed you a joke or cartoon to brighten your day? True, these examples are ones that may happen outside the school or classroom. However, as educators, I think we need to focus on acknowledging the contributions that our colleagues demonstrate.

“Secret Santa” vs “Secret Shout-Out”
With the Christmas season fast approaching, I thought about the excitement and fun that I have witnessed in various schools where a “Secret Santa” exchange was used. Some schools encouraged each teacher to purchase a single gift (within a set maximum price) for another teacher, whose name was secretly picked at random. Other schools ran the “Secret Santa” activity for an entire week and recipients received one gift each day for five days. It was infectious to witness how some teachers picked unique gifts, carefully slipped them into mailboxes in the staff room, and as the week progressed, slowly gave clues as to the identity of the particular “Secret Santa”. It was indeed a very caring time leading up to Christmas and I believe all teachers enjoyed the special attention they received from their respective “Secret Santa”.

However as we have moved from wishing people “Merry Christmas” to the more inclusive “Happy Holidays”, perhaps such “Secret Santa”activities are no longer in vogue. Furthermore, I believe that we should acknowledge the talents and caring of our educators throughout the year, rather than focus exclusively during the winter holiday season.

For this reason I thought that a “Secret Shout-Out” initiative might be a worthwhile investment to let educators know just how much they are appreciated.

Today we have at our disposal many more tools for sending praise and acknowledging the contributions of our educational colleagues. Whether it is a short email message, an online card, a comment on a blog or a tweet, one has a variety of ways to delivery a message to lift the spirits of a colleague. I know some of my readers are thinking … “Get serious! How could you ever adequately acknowledge another educator while being constrained to the 140 character limit of a tweet?”

I can assure you that I was delighted when Dean Shareski, who is the Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada, awarded me a #deanie through the following tweet:

In his “Ideas and Thoughts” blog, Dean describes that he created the #deanies as “a fun way to say thank you to people for how they’ve connected and supported me over the years”. Believe me such acknowledgement is a very powerful incentive and I suggest readers review Dean’s spreadsheet of tweets that he has shared.

I trust that I have convinced you of the benefits of taking time to acknowledge the efforts and talents of your colleagues.

Perhaps you could initiate a “Secret Shout-Out” activity in your school. Imagine if you began by sticking a thoughtful message into a colleague’s mailbox each week? Better yet, could you sneak in an anonymous thoughtful comment about each staff member over a period of time so that no one was aware of the creator? Imagine the fun and fulfillment that could result. Furthermore, the ripple of good will and recognition would spread throughout your school and indirectly benefit others.

The challenge I leave you with is to take time to acknowledge and praise your colleagues for their efforts.

As I conclude this post, I think back to a comment made by Patrick Logan, who I was very fortunate to work with for more than 20 years. Patrick once remarked to me that … “We are all placed on this earth for a certain length of time. However, when the time comes for us to depart, we should do so, knowing that we have made the world a better place.”

We all know educators who are doing their best to make the world a better place. These individuals need to be ackNOWledged. If not NOW … when?

Take care & keep smiling 🙂

– Flickr – Creative Commons cropped image of “Small Headstone” by Chuck Coker

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