Bah Humbug!

A couple years ago I sat down to journal during the first day of winter break.


I should have been in a great mood to start my long vacation. However, something was nagging at my conscience. The topic was gift giving.

I've always believed school administrators should demonstrate employee appreciation through gift-giving during the holiday season. Even as a young assistant principal, I always made sure all direct reports received a hand-written card and a gift.


Whereas I thought my practice was commonplace across districts, I have come to realize my actions are the exception rather than the rule among school leaders.


Some of my peers may not appreciate this opinion, but I believe school administrators have a reputation for showing little effort and being tight when it comes to holiday gift giving. Beyond the holidays, I believe school administrators can do better showing appreciation for employees.

In his 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.”


Not only do I love this quote, I’m also pleased Casas included “occasional gift” with his statement. I believe gift giving is an important part of the arsenal when it comes to showing employees gratitude.


For those of us with large staffs, purchasing gifts for every employee may not be feasible. However, at a minimum gifts should be purchased for all direct reports and other staff members who support administration throughout the year.


We ask these individuals work in the “trenches” on a daily basis. Without such employees, we would spend all day caught in the details never having an opportunity to focus on the bigger picture.

There are two particular staff members I would like to highlight:

  1. Your secretary. Hey administrators, it’s ok to spend a few dollars on your secretary! I often find myself embarrassed when I hear about the gifts given (or not given) to secretaries. Placing a few rolls in the lounge does not count. Using school funds to buy the rolls is even worse.

  2. The custodian who cleans your office. Often this employee is lost in the shuffle when it comes to holiday gift giving and appreciation in general. I’m not the cleanest person, and this individual makes me look a lot more “together” than I really am. Please don’t forget to add this employee to your list.

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 get quite lengthy, don’t feel pressured to spend a fortune on staff. Something as simple as a hand-written card with a small gift (I love giving lottery tickets!) can go a long way to show appreciation and say “thank you” for an employee's work throughout the year.


School leaders - please don’t turn into Ebenezer Scrooge during the holiday season.


You are giving the rest of us a bad name.

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