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  • Writer's pictureLesha Dalton

The Power of Pen and Paper: How Handwritten Notes Can Boost Teacher Morale and Retention

In an era of digitization, a simple, old-fashioned method stands out for fostering a positive school climate.

My Personal Connection to Handwritten Notes

I don’t know about you, but I love a good old-fashioned handwritten note. When I was a little girl, I looked forward to the comments my teachers would handwrite on my report cards. I loved seeing my piano teacher’s scribbled “mastered” notation next to a piece of music I had practiced and nearly perfected. And to this day, I still have handwritten notes from every single one of my administrators who took the time to leave me with their uplifting words. Knowing how much handwritten notes can matter, I carried that same practice into my work as a teacher and administrator.

Handwritten Notes in the Classroom

I can’t begin to tell you how many classrooms I’ve walked into over the years and seen my handwritten notes posted on a teacher’s bulletin board. It always makes me smile to see those notes because I know what it feels like to have a visual reminder that my boss thinks I’m doing a good job. It warms my heart to see these notes posted and to know that they matter to teachers. Handwritten notes can be a quick, inexpensive way to let your staff know how much you appreciate their hard work.

The Power of Words of Affirmation

In their book The 5 Languages Of Appreciation At Work: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, Gary Chapman and Paul White write about “words of affirmation” stating that nearly HALF of all employees identify “words of affirmation” as their primary language of appreciation. While there are lots of other ways to show appreciation to your staff, I want to focus on “words of affirmation” right now.

Tips for Writing Handwritten Notes

Here are some quick tips about handwritten notes:

  • Notice the good a teacher is doing whether it be with classroom management, a particular student, how they handled a situation, instruction, or teamwork. Employees like to know that we recognize their strengths and their efforts.

  • Take a few minutes either during the day or at the end of the day to write your notes. Writing notes daily keeps the content fresh and provides immediate feedback to staff.

  • Consider setting a goal for how many notes per week you want to write. (I suggest 3 as a starting point.)

  • Be specific about what it is that you really appreciated.

  • Make sure to sign and date it.

  • Drop the note in the teacher’s mailbox or swing by their room to drop it off. You’ll make their day!

What to Avoid When Writing Notes

Here are a few things to avoid when writing your notes:

  • Making overly generalized statements like “Good job” or “great lesson” or “awesome work”. This doesn’t tell a teacher what they specifically did that you appreciated.

  • Writing nearly identical notes to teachers…especially if they post them in their classrooms. Take the time to individualize notes.

  • Writing notes to the same teachers over and over. Find a way to track who’ve you’ve written notes to. This helps you recognize the good in everyone from custodians to cafeteria workers to instructional assistants and teachers.

Final Thoughts

In an age where we are working to promote teacher retention in schools, showing some appreciation can go a long way. So, as you brainstorm ways to sustain a positive school climate and keep those star teachers on staff, think about how you can incorporate handwritten notes into your practice. Trust me, you’ll notice a ripple effect starts to happen when you start sharing words of affirmation.

Thanks for thinking about this with me. I hope you take care of yourself and each other.

Would you like a quick reference sheet of tips for handwritten notes? Head to our free resources page to download a PDF!



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