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Bah Humbug!

As I enjoy the first day of winter break I felt compelled to write about something that comes to mind this time of year - the importance of school administrators demonstrating appreciation by giving gifts to employees during the holiday season.  This may not be a popular opinion, but I believe school administrators have a reputation for showing little effort and being tight when it comes to holiday gift giving.  Compared to the private sector where lavish holiday gifts and bonuses are commonplace, I believe school administrators can do better when it comes to showing appreciation for employees. 

Before I go further, let me say two things: 1) I certainly have a very limited knowledge on what other administrators give their employees this time of year, and 2) I’m not claiming to be the world’s most thoughtful or generous gift giver (my wife can confirm this statement).  However, having spent the last fifteen years in education in the role of a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and now superintendent this is a topic of which I have great familiarity and believe needs to be discussed. 


One of my core values as a leader is that we must always find ways to demonstrate appreciation for staff members.  In his awesome book Culturize, Jimmy Casas suggests, “A person who feels valued and appreciated will always do and give more than what is expected.  Educators understand the significance of a simple thank you, pat on the back, handwritten note, or an occasional gift that comes with a personal touch.”  I was glad Casas included “occasional gift” with his statement, as I believe gift giving is an important part of the arsenal when it comes to displaying gratitude toward employees. 

Clearly - for those of us with large staffs - purchasing gifts for every employee is probably not reasonable. However, I believe gifts should be purchased for those staff members who work closely with school administrators throughout the year.  Often the work these staff members are doing in the “trenches” on a daily basis allows us to have the time to stay focused on tasks related to instructional and systems leadership. 

While there are several people who come to mind when it comes to gift giving, there are two I would like to briefly highlight.  The first is the administrator’s secretary. Hey administrators, it’s ok to spend a few dollars on your secretaries! I often find myself dumbfounded and flat out embarrassed when I hear about the gifts that are given (or not given) to secretaries. The second staff member who deserves a reminder of gratitude this time of year is the custodian who cleans your office.  I am hopeful school administrators are giving this employee a gift, however my senses are telling me this person is often lost in the shuffle.  

Depending on your role, others who could be recognized include counselors, instructional coaches, school board members, front office staff, student support staff, other administrators/directors, and (of course) teachers.  Since the shopping list can start to get quite lengthy, I’m not suggesting you have to spend a fortune on your staff. A simple hand-written card with a small gift (those who know me know I love to give lottery tickets!) can go a long way in terms of showing appreciation and saying “thank you” for an employee's work throughout the year.

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