Mastering Appreciation

In times of stress, reflecting on the people in your life can bring you to positive spirits. Most of us in education have some way of reflecting back; senior pictures beside our desk, special trinkets reminding us of friends or family, or a binder overflowing with thank you notes from students and colleagues. These reminders of appreciation can help re-energize us, but do certain people prefer different methods of appreciation?

In the book The 5 Languages of Appreciation, authors Gary Chapman and Paul White detail 5 main ways people feel appreciated. Understanding these “acts of love” is important for two reasons: 1) knowing how to genuinely fill your “appreciation bucket” can prevent facing burnout, 2) effective leaders build rapport by knowing how to best appreciate those around them. These 5 Languages of Appreciation can be summarized as follows:


#1: Words of Affirmation – using words to uplift people, such as hand written thank you notes or verbal appreciation.


#2: Quality Time – engaging in activities together, giving someone your undivided attention.


#3: Receiving Gifts – giving tangible items that make someone feel appreciated.


#4: Acts of Service – giving your time to do something for someone else.


#5: Physical Touch – appropriate physical expression of appreciation, such as pats on the back or handshakes after a job well done.


One profound concept in the book is knowing that people will subconsciously show appreciation in the way they want to receive it. How do people around you show their appreciation? Are they the type to literally pat you on the back or give a firm handshake? Are they the person to voluntarily show up an hour early? Is their desk surrounded with handwritten thank you notes or trinkets bought by friends and family?

As leaders, if we use the wrong method of appreciation the action can go without purpose. Before FFA contests, I write a note to students as a final moment of encouragement. Students receive this note within the last 20 minutes of our bus ride, as I look in the rearview mirror to see their faces focused on what I had written. I will never forget walking the bus after students had left, only to find one of my personalized notes laying on the ground. As a newer teacher I was crushed! How could this student care so little about the time I had spent on them? Upon reflection, I realize that note best impacts those needing Words of Affirmation. It might uplift someone needing Acts of Service if they realize the time I spent toward them, but otherwise the intention of my appreciation was lost as this method did not fit this student’s appreciation needs.

As you seek out personal growth, I challenge you to learn how to appreciate. Take a moment and think of 3 people who deserve your appreciation. Based on your encounters, how do you believe they feel appreciated? Plan a moment to then show that appreciation. Words of Affirmation – take a moment to write them a personalized thank you. Receiving Gifts – buy them something they would enjoy. Quality Time – walk down to their classroom to simply sit and talk. Practice this skill and master the art of appreciating those around you. 




Chapman, Gary D., and Paul E. White. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering 

Organizations by Encouraging People. Northfield Publishing, 2019.

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