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!!!
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, 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.
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 very 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 list 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.