Administrators seem to have the most responsibility and the most opportunities toward this end. After all, they are ultimately accountable for performance and they have the final "yea/nay" for any initiatives. I'm not writing this post for administrators, however. For every caring, supportive principal or vice-principal in the biz, it seems you can find one that is not connected to his/her staff or doesn't get that teachers are the suns around which education orbits. Yes, we're here for the kids, to connect, to teach, to care, but without teachers, you don't have a school. Without supported teachers, you're losing valuable, often irretrievable opportunities to give to our students.
So, I'm writing this for teachers in hopes that you'll glean one or more ways to connect with, heal, and encourage your colleagues and that you will be touched and inspired in return.
I've divided the suggestions up into 2 sections: 1) Ideas For One Person Or A Small Group and 2) Ideas For A Committee or Large Group. See what resonates with you and seems like it would work for your staff. Maybe you can address specific concerns on your staff. Finally, if you have any ideas that have worked for you, please share in the comments below!
Ideas For One Person Or A Small Group
Consider a seasonal or all-year Secret Pal initiative.Everyone loves a small treat or surprise. It would take a little organization to find those who want to participate and match up pairs, but a Secret Pal can be just the thing to turn around a difficult day or week.
Create a "Staff Shout-Outs" bulletin board.This has become very popular of late. It can be called "filling buckets", also. It's extremely inexpensive, easy to create, and everyone can contribute. If a bulletin board is not your thing, consider including shout-outs in a staff email, newsletter, texts, or tweets.
With permission, create a school Suggestion Box.Everyone likes to be - and needs to be - heard. Even if the suggestions can't be followed, at least the powers-that-be know what the staff is concerned about.
Bring a co-worker a coffee/snack/lunch.This is always a winner! If you can't get administrators and staff on-board, focus on reaching out to your colleagues by yourself, one at a time.
Ideas For A Committee Or Large Group
Organize a "Warm Fuzzy" project.This has been popular for decades, but is always heart-warming. I used it in my classroom with my students for years, but it can be used for a staff. Provide one sheet of paper for each staff member. As time allows, other staff members rotate around to each sheet and write one positive, meaningful comment about the person listed at the top. The end result is a full sheet of loving comments for each person! I've know kids that kept theirs for years. So many recipients are amazed at the things that others appreciate about them!
Propose a fun competition.Some staffs have friendly "Biggest Loser" weight loss competitions. A small amount of money is thrown in the pot and the "biggest loser" takes home the cash! Weigh-ins have to be organized and standardized (no fair some weighing in before lunch and some after), but I've seen it pull groups together. Another fun type of competition is a daily "Where's Waldo?" idea. A small item, such as a stuffed animal, is hidden around campus each day. The first person to find it wins! A huge, goofy medal or award hanging outside a classroom can result in laughs about how hard it was to retrieve the item - and laughter IS the best medicine!
Organize a potluck.This does take a little doing, but the camaraderie created over appreciating someone's delicious treat can't be duplicated. Keep in mind this can range from a pick-up-and-go brunch to a full-on lunch. Bonus points if you get volunteers to cover classrooms! It can also extend outside school hours and off-campus. Many school staffs have an annual cookout, Christmas party, or end-of-school event. Having a few hours to relax and chat can re-establish relationships and give everyone a needed second wind.
Plan a tour of other classrooms.I never realized until I participated in a "school tour" how much I enjoyed seeing how my colleagues ran their own classrooms. It changed the feeling tone in our school from a very competitive one to a much more collaborative one. Teachers felt like their learned new ideas from others, like they offered solutions to others, and we came away feeling like we could access each others' expertise if we needed to.
Have your PTA or other group arrange special treats.Some of the most-appreciated morale-boosters come in the form of things that need large-scale organization and maybe some cash. Having your classroom covered by a volunteer for even half an hour is a winner for any teacher. Spending part of that time getting a professional shoulder massage is even better! PTA members are brilliant at getting local business to donate their services or offer greatly reduced rates.
I hope these ideas get you and your staff started on the path to improved morale. It is so worth it because, in the end, our children benefit.
Want to get some more great ideas on reducing test stress? Check out this post from my friend Mary at Carrberry Creations How To Battle Standardized Testing Stress
Want some suggestions for keeping yourself more positive? Check out this post from my friend Lisa at All Things Special Ed. Staying Positive In Trying Times