It amazes me the amount of positive praise one receives at the end of the school year. The end of an era. Why do we wait until the end of an era to make public our deep, visceral thoughts and insights?
When eulogizing someone, we remember the amazing things that someone accomplished during their life, but do we tell them these rememberings during their life? Do they know what kind of a difference they have made in the lives of others? Do they know why people followed their lead? Do they know how one little phrase they uttered stuck with someone for ten years? Do they know why they are your friend?
Why not? Why don't we make this a priority?
Praising someone creates a need to expose your thoughts feelings. It takes a great deal of vulnerability.
I received a beautiful email message from one of my teachers who reached down into their soul to write the following to me upon my bittersweet announcement of my new position at a new campus:
"Thank you for being a teacher and a mentor.
Thanks for being an administrator who actively encourages and models teaching strategies.
Thanks for making us feel like individuals and feel like we are irreplaceable.
Thanks for finding the good in your staff.
Thanks for setting the bar high.
Thanks for your presence and support at events such as Science Olympiad.
Thanks for offering opportunities to grow professionally (I wish I would have taken advantage of aspiring administrators).
And most importantly, thanks for making this the best place for teachers to work and for students to learn.
Congratulations on your new adventure!"
Let go of the notion that praise should be done a certain way. Receiving this message caused me to remember certain conversations and situations which I shared with this teacher. It is specific and follows the journey of my time at the campus. Receiving even one of these statements would have been magical, but to receive all of them was surreal.
Don't let vulnerability weigh you down. It takes time to let others know your innermost thoughts, and it takes an ability to be "okay" with vulnerability. It can be like telling someone you love them when you don't know if they are going to say it back. Sometimes saying "it" is more important than the reaction. All the time, "it" is worth saying to the recipient. This teacher bared their soul in the messages which were carefully written, and I am forever thankful for the honesty and openness contained within.
Devote time. Create time. Lean into the feeling of vulnerability enough to tell people around you what an impact they have on your life. Tell your kids how much they mean to you, Tell people why you trust them, why they matter, and what about their life you admire. You may think it is going to take too much time to create just the right message, but when you speak from the heart it is the right message every time.
Take the time to be open and vulnerable with your praise. It is worth every ounce of courage you summon, and it creates a new, deeper connection to those around you.