There are lots of ways to measure the health of a school’s culture. One that won’t ever make it into any kind of report, but strikes me as a sound barometer is how often and in how many ways people say thank you.
Here at Diegueño, “Cougar Pride” cards have long been a staple of recognizing students for their contributions to our school family. They’re a way staff members can recognize students who have demonstrated the qualities we celebrate in the pillars of character we believe so much in. Students like getting these acknowledgements from their teachers, and staff like giving them as a way of saying thanks.
This year, our school counselor, new to Diegueño, asked if we had a public way staff could say a similar thank you to each other. She talked with my amazing assistant and they came up with the concept of “PAW Prints,” cards that staff could present to each other to honor and acknowledge kindness and support. I lobbied for the acronym to stand for “Professional and Wonderful,” my assistant added the phrase “like a paw print, staff members make an impression,” and our counselor reached out to local businesses, so we could add a monthly raffle to the program and add an element of spice to the new way of saying thank you.
That PAW Prints were a welcome addition to Diegueño hit me when my library tech stopped me to say how much she appreciated a PE teacher, also new to campus, who offered to cover media center supervision so she could attend the PTSA’s teacher appreciation lunch. “I’ve never had someone offer like this,” she told me. “I’m writing her a PAW Print!” So often it’s easy to put off writing a thank you note; having a system in place to make it easier contributes to a healthier campus.
That PTSA lunch was another example of how members of the Diegueño Family show their thanks to one another. It wasn’t teacher appreciation week here on campus, just a regular week in November, and the PTSA decided to cater a beautiful lunch for staff to express their thanks for a great start to the year. With tables decorated with pumpkins and fall leaves, it felt like a miniature Thanksgiving dinner, shared by teachers, office staff, and parents too.
Parent thank yous aren’t limited to big events. Just this year I’ve had many parents stop by my office on their way in or out of school, pop their heads in my open door, and tell me how much they appreciate the extra help a teacher gave their son, the nice email or phone call they got about their daughter, or the kindness shown their student by our counseling department. They send emails too, and while it would be a fib to say that the majority of the emails I get are complements or appreciations, more thank you notes come to my email in box than you’d expect.
The unexpected nature of impromptu thank you notes is something I’ve always loved. I do my best to write notes of thanks myself, using homemade pirate themed cards that I hope bring a smile as well as a sense of my appreciation. It’s funny, but I find that on the weeks that I write the most thank yous, I’m happiest. There’s something about putting pen to paper to express how much something is appreciated that helps to put the world in perspective.
I’m proud to work on a campus where thank you is part of our school culture, where from student to teacher to parent it’s not unusual to see an act of kindness followed by a heartfelt “thanks.”