I always love the first few of days of each year when the anticipation for school is palpable. The students are eager to get their schedules, see their friends, and make their Friday night game plans. While their excitement for school makes me remember my teenage dreams, it’s the staff who really inspires me. Restored from the summer, the staff is even more eager than the students to get their classrooms organized, collaborate with colleagues on lesson plans, and fulfill the promise of the new school year.
But this early-year excitement can fade quickly, and the demands of school and the daily routines start to wear everyone down.
How can we work to keep positive energy strong throughout the entire school year? How do you keep your staff motivated to come to work every day, and how do you make them feel appreciated throughout the school year? Here are three things that have helped our school sustain positive energy on our campus all year long.
- Connect With Staff Off Campus Before School Starts
When staff members are at school, the stresses of work creep in. To help staff escape the workload, take them away from campus to help them connect to one another without the pressures of lesson planning, grading, and emails. You might consider an off-campus retreat before the school year begins. It’s a great way to spend time interacting and getting to know one another as people. It doesn’t have to be at a costly retreat center, either; one of the schools that I worked for hosted the retreat at a local church that donated their facility.
- Set a Mission for Your School Year
When staff can get behind the same mission, it helps maintain focus and energy throughout the year. During the staff retreat, we challenged them to think of one word that would describe what they wanted to accomplish during the school year. We compiled everyone’s response in a “wordle” and had it printed on the banner, which the teachers signed and hung inside the entry way of the school. The banner was a visual reminder each day of what we all were working towards. In addition, we based our theme for the year on this banner and committed to “1Word.1Goal.1Team.”
Once you’ve set the tone for the school year, positive reinforcement and recognition can help affirm and motivate staff. This can be done in a variety of ways, from random acts of kindness to significant public recognitions. Here are a few examples of recognition we have used:
- Weekly shout-outs in the staff newsletter.
- Food! It seems simple, but it goes a long way. We find ways to feed staff and help them look forward to potentially stressful events through things like a cookout before the first home football game, dinner before parent-teacher night, ice cream for the end of testing, and breakfast on the last teacher work day.
- Senior legacy awards, where teachers are nominated by senior students to receive an award for the impact they had in their lives. Teachers are recognized at all buildings in a corporation-wide event. Teachers are called onstage by their building, and students make a brief statement about why that particular teacher left an impact on them.
- Top 20, in which the 20 top-performing students are invited with their parents and their two favorite teachers (one from middle level/elementary and one from high school) to a banquet. The students read a speech that acknowledges the role their teachers and parents had in their academic success.
Education is the most important profession. Our teachers work tirelessly to provide a quality educational experience for our students; let’s begin the school year making sure our staff knows how much we appreciate them, and then commit to demonstrating it every single day.
How does your school motivate staff throughout the year?
Jenn Perkins in the assistant principal of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, IN. She is the 2018 Indiana Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter @JennPerkins2.