Hello and Happy Three Day Weekend to me.
We are off on Monday because of Veteran’s Day, and I’m just here to say . . . I am so thankful to all of our veterans, including my father in law!
I thought I’d answer this question today:
How do you keep school climate and culture positive?
I started teaching at my school when it opened. I’m an “original”. An O.G., if you will. There aren’t many of us left, but we’ve seen our school climate and culture change A LOT throughout the last eighteen years.
Once, we actually let an administrator ruin our staff morale. She came in, she had her own ideas, she changed a lot of things that our previous administrator had put in place and, in the end, we were not at all happy. I’m telling you, we were UPSET. Collectively. As a whole. And I’m using the word upset lightly. I’m telling you, our morale was not good.
I don’t think it occurred to any of us that WE (the teachers!!) could change the morale. That an administrator doesn’t really have the power to change the way we FEEL. Yes, we needed to meet her expectations. Of course. But we didn’t have to go around like sticks in the mud, we didn’t have to complain and gossip (that was me, I’m talking about me, I was the worst) to anyone who would listen, we didn’t have to mope!
But we did.
Oh, how we moped.
And then, finally, we got a new principal, and holy cow!
She passed out Starbucks gift cards at staff meetings. There was always some sort of game or sort of drawing, and BAM! You get a gift card. And you do, too! Oh, and here’s a lottery ticket! Hope you win and take us all on a cruise!
And once, when some state test scores came in, she had an ice cream sundae bar waiting for us because guess what? The scores weren’t good, but she was STILL proud of us because she knew we worked as hard as we could, that our kids worked as hard as they could, and that ice cream makes everything better all the time.
She wasn’t the parents’ principal, she wasn’t the teachers’ principal, she was the STUDENTS’ principal. If it was best for kids, she was on board. If it wasn’t, forget it.
It was AMAZING.
The littlest things added up and so did our morale. I can’t even begin to explain the change that took place over the following four years. It was like Mary Poppins flew in, gave us some sugar any time we had to take our medicine, and patted us on our wee little heads and our wee little backs every single morning. The birds chirped, the rainbows were brighter, and every once in awhile, we saw a unicorn pass by.
And then guess what?
She moved on. She left.
And that’s when I think it hit us.
Principals come and go. They do. They’re supposed to. At least in my district, they’re supposed to move around.
But most of us (the teachers) are STAYING. We have found our home, we don’t aspire to become administrators, we love our school, and we aren’t going anywhere.
So it’s up to US.
School climate and culture is up to US.
Here’s how it’s always worked at my school IN GENERAL.
We have a Social Committee. And we pay $30 a year in Social Dues.
Now, I’m not on the Social Committee because I’m pretty much on everything else, but our Social Committee is amazing. And it only has two people. FOR REAL. It’s changed hands over the years, but currently it’s only TWO PEOPLE. And they are incredible at what they do. This is right up their alley.
They decorated our lounge this summer and it looks BEAUTIFUL. And that motivated other people to start changing it up seasonally. Plus, we have designated Snack Days and some grade levels go overboard and really decorate for that month. Our office staff had their snack day assigned on Halloween so our lounge was orange and black, and there were all sorts of Halloween decorations up. Until someone took it all down and the next thing I knew, there was a cute turkey centerpiece in the middle of the table with some delicious treats nearby.
By the way, if you want to raise morale at your school, put some treats in the lounge. Treats make everyone happy.
Even if they say things like I swear, I can’t walk through this place without gaining ten pounds or I’m on a diet, don’t they know I’m on a diet? or Why, why, why, every day, why?
There are almost ALWAYS treats in our lounge. Seriously. It’s a thing. Whether it’s from a staff member, a parent, a local restaurant (really! Sometimes, we get little individual bags of chips and salsa from a local Mexican place) or our new principal who loves loves loves to bake, there is almost always food in our lounge.
In fact, it’s more uncommon NOT to have any food in the lounge so that when you’re walking through and there isn’t any delectable treat to sample, you might get a bit put out and think to yourself hello? I don’t want to eat the carrots I packed for my snack today, I really wanted brownies or cookies or pie or cake or that left over pumpkin cheese roll up thing that was in here the other day, where is all the food, I don’t understand what is happening here . . . and then you have to eat your carrots which leads you to become extremely jealous of one or two of your first grade kids’ snacks which consist of Nacho Cheese Doritos or a Twinkie (that’s just an example from this week) and you pray and hope that they’ll forget it, and leave it behind, and maybe you can just have a teeny bite and no one will know . . .
Er. Um. Anyway.
Social Dues go towards all sorts of stuff, such as the staff Christmas party, paper goods, birthday treats (a bag of chips and 50 cents to buy a soda), End of the Year party, Boss’ Day, etc. It also goes toward bridal and baby showers. If we have a surplus at the end of the year, we get to buy something for the lounge! A few years ago, we bought an ice maker!
If someone on your grade level is getting married or having a baby, then the grade level “hosts” the shower. We get a small budget from the Social Committee (to cover cake or whatever) and to purchase a gift. However, what we tend to do is spend all the money on a gift, and then each of us will bring something for the shower (drinks, cake, brownies, etc).
This week, we had a baby shower breakfast (we are a late start school so morning get togethers work best for us) for one of our teachers so out went the turkey decorations and up went this:
Our third and fourth grade teams did all the decorating. Our mommy-to-be teaches fourth grade, but she taught third grade last year so they wanted to help out. too. And I helped make the invitation. We generally just all chip in. 🙂
By the way, I don’t know much about decorating anything, but once you hang things from the ceiling, it just gets a whole lot more FESTIVE, in my opinion.
All of the black/red/white decorations are what our Social Committee put up over summer. SO CUTE, right?
This year, a bunch of us went to see Gerry Brooks so we took away some other great ideas for boosting morale, too. Right now, we have three compliment journals going around! And a few weeks ago, I randomly brought supplies for a coffee bar (the Keurig was donated a few years ago).
I’ve done the Coffee Bar thing couple of times. It just makes ME happy to see other people happy.
I don’t know.
It’s not like our campus is a perfect place. We have 33 teachers which means we have 33 different personalities and some of us get along with certain people better than other people. It’s life. And we have GOBS and GOBS of support staff. They totally outnumber us.
But what I try to do is say hi first. All the time. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I have to eat my carrots because no one around was thoughtful enough to bake me a darn treat.
Just Kidding! 😉
But honestly, I try to smile first. I try to say hi first. I just want to be friendly! To subs, to support staff I don’t even know, to anyone.
And yes. Once you’ve said hi that first time, and then you see them again at recess, or later in the day, or even after school, and you’re thinking I’ve already said hi, now what do I say, do I have to say anything, this is a bit awkward, I say YES. Say something. Make something up.
I like to say something along the lines of Cute shoes! Cute hair! Love that bag! How’s your day going so far? Could it get any hotter? Colder? What’s up with this wind?! Is it a full moon? My kids are crazy today! Hey there! Hi there! Ho there! What’s up? Did you watch the Real Housewives last night? You don’t watch the Real Housewives? Oh, you should, you totally should. I’d start with season one of New Jersey – it’s just insane!
Those are just some examples I made up off the top of my head.
And remember, little things add up. It doesn’t have to be a coffee bar or a baby shower.
Picking up a bag of Hershey’s Kisses and pouring them out across the table in your lounge will make a lot of people happy as they pass through. I’m not kidding.
It lights up my whole day.
And when a parent volunteer brought her itty bitty puppy in one day, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. So if you could arrange to have a puppy delivered, that wouldn’t hurt.
How is your school climate and culture? Do you have a social committee? Any new ideas I should try?
How about a puppy that I could snuggle?