Combatting Educator Burnout and Boosting School Culture with Sticky Note Appreciation

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, school leaders have faced an array of unprecedented challenges. Transitioning to remote learning, adapting to ever-changing health and safety guidelines, and managing the anxiety surrounding the pandemic have all strained school culture. One significant consequence has been a marked increase in educator burnout. However, there’s a simple, cost-effective tool within your control that can help alleviate this burnout and foster a positive environment: the humble sticky note.

The Problem: A Strained School Culture and Educator Burnout

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes that school leaders could never have anticipated. The sudden shift to remote learning, the constant changes in health and safety guidelines, and the general anxiety surrounding the pandemic have all contributed to a strained school culture. This strain has manifested in various ways, one of the most concerning being a rise in educator burnout. Teachers and staff are feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, and exhausted, leading to a decline in morale and productivity.

Understanding the Concept of Sticky Note Appreciation

Despite these challenges, there’s a tool at your disposal that can make a significant difference: the sticky note. A study by the University of Minnesota and the University of Toronto found that school leaders can significantly influence school culture and student learning through their actions and behaviors. One of these actions can be as simple as writing a note of appreciation or celebration, a practice known as Sticky Note Appreciation.

The idea of using sticky notes as expressions of appreciation can be traced back to its humble beginnings in the corporate world. In the fast-paced and often stressful corporate environment, employees were constantly in need of motivation and recognition for their hard work. This led to the emergence of the practice of leaving sticky notes with words of appreciation on colleagues’ desks or workstations. What started as a simple gesture soon gained popularity and began spreading like wildfire, infiltrating other fields, including education.

The Psychology Behind Sticky Note Appreciation

The psychology behind Sticky Note Appreciation lies in its ability to create a positive and uplifting atmosphere. The act of receiving a sticky note with words of appreciation can have a profound effect on one’s morale. When someone receives a sticky note expressing gratitude for their efforts, it not only acknowledges their hard work but also reinforces a sense of value and importance. It reminds them that their contributions are noticed and valued by others.

Furthermore, the visual element of a colorful sticky note adds a touch of joy and excitement to the experience. The vibrant colors and eye-catching designs of sticky notes make the act of appreciation even more memorable and enjoyable. Imagine walking into your workspace and finding a bright yellow sticky note with a heartfelt message from a colleague. The burst of color instantly uplifts your mood and brings a smile to your face. It creates a positive environment that fosters productivity and camaraderie.

How to Use Sticky Notes Effectively

Scheduling time in your calendar each week to write a note can seem like a small act, but its impact can be profound. Here are some tips on how to use sticky notes effectively:

  • Be specific: Instead of a generic “good job,” mention a specific achievement or action. This shows that you’re paying attention and genuinely appreciate their efforts.
  • Be sincere: Authenticity goes a long way. Make sure your note comes from the heart.
  • Be inclusive: Try to reach as many team members as possible over time. Everyone contributes to the school’s success and should be recognized.

Examples of Sticky Note Messages

Here are some examples of messages you could write:

  • “Great job on the project, Mrs. Smith! Your creativity really shone through.”
  • “Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for going the extra mile to support our students during remote learning.”
  • “Ms. Davis, your patience and dedication are making a difference in our students’ lives. Keep up the good work!”

The Impact of Sticky Notes on School Morale and Culture

These small acts of kindness can have a profound impact on school culture. They foster a positive environment, boost morale, and can even improve performance. Plus, they’re a cost-effective solution that’s easy to implement. And the best part? Writing these notes can also boost your own morale and remind you of the positive impact you’re making every day.

Case studies have shown that schools that have implemented Sticky Note Appreciation have experienced increased motivation and job satisfaction among teachers. The practice creates a positive feedback loop, where teachers feel valued, leading to increased effort and improved student outcomes. Over time, the practice of Sticky Note Appreciation becomes a part of the school’s identity, providing a foundation for a culture that celebrates achievements, appreciates efforts, and encourages collaboration.


As you plan for the new school year, consider adding ‘write sticky notes’ to your weekly schedule. It’s a simple, effective tool that’s within your control, and it can make a big difference in your school culture. Let’s make this year the best one yet, one sticky note at a time.