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Mel Gravely

Staff Appreciation in Head Start: 14 Ways that We Can Do It!

So nobody really talks about it. We speak about big data, family engagement and school readiness all the time. We write memos about it and have meetings and trainings. Are we forgetting there is something else very important?

Once a year, perhaps on teacher appreciation week, Office of Head Start may tweet or blog appreciation for all you do. But, there is more to do than that. One researcher found 36% of Head Start teachers left within the first year.

The new Head Start Performance Standards adds additional strain to our already overtaxed staff.

  • Are you suffering from high turnover rate of staff?
  • Do you find staff is burnt out, stressed or frazzled?
  • Are you feeling stressed every time you think about your job?

It’s not supposed to be like this. Let’s commit to a better year. More appreciation, less stress.

Here are some ways to do make your staff feel more appreciated.

1. Are your staff’s basic needs being met? Have coffee, tea, and drinkable water available. Do they have time to complete their work? Ask them. Perhaps you need to build in more time for paperwork.

2. Give your staff a break when needed. Did a staff member come in with tears, or seems very angry? Offer to take his/her post for ten minutes so s/he can grab a drink and calm down.

3. Say “yes” if possible. So often, we say no to any request. Make it a yes day. If staff members want to try something big and fun, let them. As long as it’s allowable by Head Start Performance Standards.

4. Pay attention and truly listen. When staff members talk to you, don’t multitask. Put down your phone, look at them, and give them the feeling that you’re there for them.

5. Set realistic expectations and standards. Don’t try to change people to something totally different.

6. Have opportunity for growth. Can you give staff leadership positions? There are different ways to include staff. Have one staff member attend a conference and then share what s/he learned with colleagues. Put artistic staff in charge of bulletin boards. Perhaps your resident bookworm can create a book club for staff or moms.

7. Appreciate staff always. Stop staff in hall just to stay thank you. Write a little note on a lesson or report they submit. It’s free, easy and priceless.

8. Learn something new.

9. Smile more. A smile is understood in every language.

10. Have staff say five positive things about themselves at the start of a meeting.

11. Declutter and clean out your site. Store or throwaway objects and furniture laying around. Hire cleaning staff to do a deep clean.

12. Help your staff relax. Adult coloring books are so popular, for a good reason. Why not print a free page for your staff?

13. Encourage vacations. Don’t be the boss who gives employees a hard time with vacations. Staff will come back refreshed. Let them go with a good feeling. Put some welcome back signs. Work out a plan of how their work will be done while they are away.

14. Consider a garden if your staff will enjoy taking charge. How about a school pet? If you want something more temporary, you can bring in caterpillars or ant farms. This is very educational for kids, and fascinating for adults.

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  1. I love this post because it demonstrates that staff appreciation events and gifts are not as important as what directors (and even colleagues) do every single day to make staff feel appreciated. Kudos on a wonderful post.

  2. Tammi L Norman says:

    My son is 1 could I sing him up for headstart

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