How to Show Your Staff that You Care

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I always feel there is a certain rhythm to the school year. Come February, we enter “The Dark Time”. There is a scene in the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV, “A New Hope”) where Obi-Wan Kanobi is explaining to young Luke Skywalker about a more civilized time, “before the dark time…before the Empire”. I use that quote with my staff to describe that time between the end of the first semester and Spring Break. It’s cold outside, it is dark when you leave the house and dark when you get back from work. You can’t get outside, and the days seem to last for weeks. While teaching at any time during the year is a tough job, during this time of the year it seems three times as difficult. As the principal, I work with my admin team to find ways to show appreciation and encourage our staff during this difficult time. Here are some of the things we do to help get them through the Dark Time. Take that Lord Vader!!!

Birthday List

We are a Google platform school. I use Google calendar extensively for a variety of things, but one of the best uses is to track recurring events, like birthdays. A few years back, I took about 30 minutes and entered every staff member’s birthday as yearly recurring events. Each morning, if there is a birthday that day, I send an e-mail to wish them a happy birthday. It takes 10 seconds to do, but it lets them know I am thinking about them. Also, each week I send an e-mail newsletter to the staff. In it I also include birthdays for the coming week. That way every staff member knows when to wish someone a special day.

Feed Them

Feed them, as much as we can, as often as we can. We do several things to try and accomplish this at our school. About once a nine weeks, we do a lunch or a breakfast. The admin team will show up early, and cook pancakes and sausage for our teachers. It is pretty inexpensive, everyone gets a good start to their day and the admin team show their appreciation for the staff. We also have done a variety of different lunches. We have cooked Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, baked potato bars and sandwich days. Also, each year in November we do a chili cookoff. Teachers and admin cook chilis, we provide the side dishes and fixings. We then vote on the spiciest, best tasting and most original chilis. Everyone eats well and has a great time. For the record, I have never won the contest, which delights my staff to no end.

Written Notes

This is such a simple thing, but it makes a huge impact. I write a personal note to each of my department chairs and team leaders at the end of the year. I also will write a note anytime a staff member does something above and beyond the call of duty. It is rey gratifying as the principal to walk into rooms or offices and see a note I wrote proudly displayed on a desk or bulletin board.

Honor Their Time

Like everyone else, we have scheduled meetings during each month. Faculty meetings, leadership team meetings, admin team meetings. I am sure you can compile your own lst that is very similar to mine. But how many of these are actually necessary? Have you ever shown up at a meeting and wonder why you are there? That is a problem. I always look at the WHY of the meeting. If you look at the agenda, and realize that everything you are doing can be done through an e-mail or memo, cancel the meeting. They will appreciate the fact that you are honoring their time.

What ways do you have to show your appreciation? Please feel free to share with your comments.

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my weekly Diigo posts for the week of February 12, 2017. I have a new post coming out today about how to show appreciation to your staff. Be on the lookout for it!

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my Diigo posts for the week of February 5th. Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my Diigo posts for the week of January 29. I hope you find something worthwhile here. Don’t forget to read my last post, What is Middle School All About, as well. Make it a great week!

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my Diigo posts for the week of January 22, 2017. Check out my other post today as well, what I think middle school is all about. Enjoy!

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What Is Middle School All About?

I ask myself this question about every other day. Some days I even ask WHY am I doing this? Since you are reading this, there is a pretty solid chance that you have a middle schooler or work with a middle schooler, and an even better chance that you have asked this question as well. Unfortunately, after 32 years in this profession, I have yet to find one solid answer. Now, I will tell you that I have found dozens of answers, each of them accurate at the time, but then the appropriate answer seems to change the next day.

Let me tell you what I think middle school is not, and then get into what I think it is. Middle school is not about grades for the sake of grades. Oh sure, you need grades to see progress, what learning is going on, that type of thing. But the middle school years have to be about more than just a letter on a paper. Middle school is not about preparing for high school. Hear me out on this one. We help set up the foundation for the next level, no question. But there is more to what we do than that, so this is not what middle school is about (solely). Middle school is not about

So, why do we do this middle school thing? Here is what I believe about middle school, with all my heart. Middle school is a time for exploring different interests. A time to allow kid to start to get an idea of what their futures might look like (notice I said an IDEA, not a solid plan at the age of 11). They get a chance to get to know other people who are different from them, to learn how to be accepting of those differences. They learn how to form an opinion, how to defend their opinion while still allowing others to have a differing opinion. They get a chance to learn how to make friends, how to handle it when those friendships turn out bad. They get an opportunity to accept more responsibilities, and to learn about the consequences of not fulfilling those responsibilities. They learn about making decisions, both good and bad. They begin to see that there is more to the world than the 2 foot bubble around them. They learn to ask questions, about themselves, about the world, and about their part in that world. They begin to see what their contributions may be. Above all, they learn to be flexible, to adapt to changes, because all of the things mentioned above will change a thousand times in the next ten years, and they need to know how to adjust the plan.

As a principal, I can tell you that some of our kids come to us with these lessons already well ingrained in them. Some others get these lessons right away. Some take a little bit longer to learn these lessons, but they get there. Some don’t get there while they are with me, but I hope that we at least laid some of the foundation for when they do get it. Sadly, some never get it. But however they get there, and whenever they get there, that is when I know that we have the right answer to the question. At least for that day. We all know the answer will soon change.

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my weekly Diigo posts for the week of January 16. I hope you find something worthwhile in here. I am working on my next post and hope to have it out sometime this week. Enjoy!

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