This week teachers across the country will be showered with cards, flowers, donuts, gift cards and much more as students, families, and administrators recognize National Teacher Appreciation Week. I remember being a teacher and being excited about a week dedicated to appreciating me. I recall checking my mailbox each morning to see what thoughtful gifts await or walking into the teacher’s lounge to discover all the delicious treats our amazing PTO moms had prepared for us; not to mention the amazing decorations! National Teacher Appreciation Week is five days designated to showering teachers with love and appreciation for all they’ve done throughout the school year. As a former educator (for over 25 years), I understand how exciting it is when you’re recognized for all of your hard work. In fact, the appreciation I received from my students, families, and administrators was something I strived for every single day. Teaching is probably one of the toughest professions on earth because it’s not just a single thing you’re responsible for, but how well you can do all the things you’re faced with. If you enter this profession thinking that your only job will be to educate children, then you are completely wrong and will be blindsided by all the other struggles you are sure to encounter. I’ve always said that a teacher’s role is the only profession (unless you’re a pastor) that has every other occupation rolled into one! You are a counselor, a doctor, a judge (and jury), a life coach, a student, a secretary, a reporter, a firefighter, shall I continue? If you can think of it, then a teacher has probably done it! So how can one week of appreciation so close to the end of the school year help to fuel a teacher’s soul for a lifetime? Let’s face it, it can’t. Nor can those nice messages we get from our supervisors after a walk-through or those amazing gifts we receive from students and families throughout the year serve as a lifetime of gratitude. No matter how big or small, it seems that these things only last for a brief moment, then we’re out searching for the next quick fix of appreciation. The only way a teacher (or anyone else) can feel appreciated the for extended periods of time, and the one way to ensure teachers can get through struggles like teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, is to show love and appreciation for self. I’m not saying that we don’t need to show appreciation for our teachers and other staff members throughout the year. But a week of appreciation is like filling your car up with gas on Sunday and believing you can drive on this same tank of gas for the next several months- it’s simply not possible. If you want to feel peace, happiness, love, and appreciation – you will have to do it yourself. We know that gift cards, flowers, food, and even kind words will slowly diminish in value and before we know it, we are looking for the next quick fix. It’s only when we find ways to love and value ourselves that we feel energized and renewed for extended periods of time, that's because we don’t have to wait on anyone else to do it for us, we can do it ourselves. When we become dependent on others to show us appreciation for our hard work, we are looking in the wrong place, and we will sometimes be dissatisfied with the results.
Here are just a few ways for you to show appreciation for yourself this week: 1. Simply BE Take some time and enjoy simply BEing this week. This means to unplug from your devices (television, phones, computers) and spend time with self simply celebrating and enjoying the energy of life that fills your body each day. In my book, The Beauty Underneath the Struggle, I share ways to nurture your relationship with self, so that you can begin to enjoy every moment of this gift we call life. Allow your attention to take a break from all the busy tasks of the day and make time to rest in things that bring you peace. 2.Find your Fountain of Inspiration Each of us have different things that fill our minds and bodies with positive energy, whether that be walking, connecting with nature, reading a good book, listening to music, writing poetry or simply spending time with self – find your source of inspiration and gift yourself with it often. 3.Do Something Special for Yourself Many times, we are so focused on all that we have to do for others, that we miss those opportunities to treat ourselves. Each month celebrate yourself with an outing, a gift, or some other form of appreciation so that life doesn’t feel like you’re working to pay bills or take care of others, but you are also working to take care of you! And finally… 4.Show Love Show love to yourself by having a forgiving spirit. Don’t beat yourself up when you miss a goal or make a perceived mistake – instead embrace these as learning opportunities and a way to connect with why you were placed on this earth. When we practice love and appreciation for ourselves, it makes it easier to share that same love and appreciation with others. So this week, as you prepare to celebrate this amazing profession with other educators from all over the country, give yourself a double dose of appreciation by remembering it’s not about what others do or don’t do this week, but what you do for yourself each day of your life that matters. Just like happiness, appreciation is an inside job! Let’s make it a great week or not. The choice is ALWAYS yours. Niki