And the winner is ……..  “A Better Teacher Than You.” Many schools have a Teacher of the Month award with the goal of uplifting staff for their hard work and contributions.

While it is certainly great to be acknowledged, don’t all teachers deserve recognition and appreciation for the dedication they have to their jobs and students?  Not just the “Special 9” winners.

Research has indicated that employee award programs (and student awards) actually are more harmful than helpful. In a time where all educators need a confidence boost, there are much better ways to accomplish the goal of recognizing teachers.

Here is why Teacher of the Month awards destroy morale.

1. Competition is encouraged.

A winner of an award implies there is a contest. This leads to comparisons and rivalries. Although the person who wins the monthly award feels valued and respected, others are left feeling inadequate and unappreciated.

2. Where there’s a winner, there are losers.

But, teachers are NOT Losers! Pitting already overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed professionals against each other is just cruel.

3. Awards are subjective.

Teacher of the month awards are usually chosen by the principal. This can lead to claims of favoritism, (brown-nosing), and preferential treatment. There usually is no criterion for choosing the winner. It comes down to, “Who did something extra special this month or volunteered for an extra duty?”

But, some teachers don’t have any time for extra duties. Teachers work second jobs. They have their own children. But most importantly, they give their heart and soul to find ways to help their students succeed?

4. School culture suffers.

The easiest way to destroy the school culture is to compare teachers in any way. Comparisons build resentment and destroy relationships. Who has better test scores? Who stays late? Who is dressed nicer? Who cares?!

Ever hear of the buzzword growth mindset?  There is no room for toxic-teaching comparisons.

 5. The squeaky wheel gets the… award.

There are all kinds of teachers and personalities. There are introverted teachers, like myself, who accomplish the most in solitude. Other teachers usually come to us for help and advice. We never get teacher awards.

Then, there are the extroverted teachers who raise their hands at every staff meeting. Who volunteer for every single extra duty that is thrown out there? They get the awards.

We need and should find ways to value ALL teachers.

Alternate ways to recognize teachers

There are many ways to build the morale of all teachers without singling out a select few.  Here are the best ways to fill our buckets.

1. Tell us the good stuff.

While we instantly hear about Levi’s mom saying we grade too hard or we don’t call on him enough, we don’t always hear about the good things that are mentioned to our admin or office staff.

We live for that!!! Get your sneakers on, and run to our classrooms with the good stuff. You can take your time with the parent complaints. 

2. Spotlight teachers every week.

Pick the name of a random teacher each week. Have our students and grade-level team write us positive notes. This is what we value and what makes our day!

Please make our days!

3. Hold The Office( Dundies) -type awards.

Remember the Dundies? Who doesn’t? Teachers are funny people, and laughing is great for morale and team building. Teachers have special niches such as “Best at Fixing the Copier” or “Master of Asynchronous Sessions.”

Keep it light and spotlight positive traits. Avoid Dundies like “Kind of a B Award.” I think Angela gave that one back.

5. Give “Above and Beyond Coupons.

Teachers and support staff are always doing extra special tasks. Make coupons for rewards that teachers value such as “No Lesson Plans this Week.” or “Free Jean Day.” Hand these out with a thank you note. Make opportunities for everyone to receive one.

Using a little creativity and ingenuity works wonders for overall morale. When everyone feels their worth and value, the results trickle down to the students.

And then, everyone is a winner.