I like to teach my students to verbally acknowledge those around them, whether it’s during my afternoon bus duty that I'm reminding them to greet their bus driver or greeting teachers they pass in the hallways (instead of silently staring and walking on past...what's up with that, kiddos?!). Since we're talking about familiar school community members, not random strangers on the street, I feel it's important to teach them politeness and these appropriate social skills. Regarding school custodians, since I teach on a cart and hold music in their classrooms, the custodian sometimes pops in and out, grabbing or bringing back their plastic classroom tubs containing their lunch bags, checking the thermostat, or other daily tasks. I use that as a teachable moment of acknowledgement. Sometimes it’s with a simple, “Say ‘hi’ to Mr. ___ everyone!” Other times, after he leaves the room, I’ll mention briefly how they can be thankful for such a clean learning environment and to encourage them to share a “Thank you for…” statement when they see him next. Some examples would be:
- “Thank you for bringing down our lunch bins everyday.”
- “Thank you for helping our school to be clean.”
- “Thank you for all the chairs you set up for our families at the concert.”
A simple "Thank you for..." statement can go a long way and I make sure to set the example by sharing my own thank you statements, whether my students are around or not.
Another great way to show appreciation is with a thank you card. Pick a time during the school year to offer one to your school custodians. For example, this can be done by having students sign their name on a large piece of construction paper (folded or open flat) after a grade-level concert. Maybe consider surprising your school custodian with a birthday card or an ‘end of the year’ thank you card by the students before they begin summer vacation. I noticed at one of the schools I teach at, a custodian there kept a large appreciation card the 3rd and 4th graders made for him and he hung it up in his small office space. Don’t negate the power of a sincere, old-school, handwritten card!
This is different from the “verbally” point given above because we’re MUSIC teachers! We utilize the power of song to touch hearts so why not SING the praises of those whom we appreciate! A song I've loved using in the past comes from the Music K-8 resource and is aptly entitled: “We Appreciate You.” It’s a simple, generically worded song of appreciation that can easily be applied to anyone you’d like to give thanks to. It’s extremely upbeat and catchy so my students *love* learning and performing it. One year, my principal decided to gather all the students into the all-purpose room and surprised our custodian by calling him down to the room via the loudspeaker, as if it was a usual clean-up duty that he needed to attend to. The moment he walked in, all the kids yelled, “Surprise! We appreciate you, Mr. ___!” and proceeded to sing through the song. As you can imagine, he was very moved and touched by the gesture from the kids!
Yes, yes, I know...that’s not a word, but work with me here! During the school year teachers have specific moments where they feel the love. There’s random little notes of thanks from students during the year, gift giving during December, Valentine’s Day cards, and a National Teacher Appreciation Day in May where many school districts and PTA/PTO groups across the country acknowledge teachers with fun little surprises in their mailboxes or a catered breakfast/lunch (not to mention the AWESOME store discounts many retailers and restaurants offer...hello free Chik-fil-A and Chipotle BOGO!!). There’s an Administrator’s Assistant Day, School Nurse’s Day, Boss' Day, all kinds of days during the school year.