With so many changes, extra assignments, new mitigation strategies, and the added realm of distance learning put on already-overloaded schedules, teachers and staff could certainly use an extra boost of encouragement these days! We want to lean into both self-care as well as the compassion and patience we have for our students and their learning. I’ve compiled a range of ideas we’ve tried recently that you might be able to implement at your school for your teachers and staff.
- Coffee truck: hire a local coffee truck to come to your school to serve the teachers. See if the PTA/PTO or another local organization will pay for the coffees (or at least to upgrade a drink size), or teachers can self-pay — it is still a treat to have a visit from a coffee truck! See if you can arrange to have it come on a workday or during lunch break.
- Ice cream truck (or other food truck): same idea, different spin
- Emergency kit: Put together small bags with hand sanitizer, wipes, chapstick, etc.
- Drink, snack, or donut trolley: Admin walks around with a decorated cart and serves up afternoon treats at each classroom door.
- Candy delivery: Walk around the school and toss candy to teachers
- Giveaways: We had a beautiful floral arrangement donated, and then we drew the name of a staff member to take it home for the Thanksgiving centerpiece.
- Secret Pals: Set up Secret Pals and have them treat each other throughout the year. Have a reveal party at the end of the year.
- Scavenger hunt: Hiding a small display of treats somewhere in the school on a workday. Make an announcement when it is ready, and staff members can look for it when they get a chance, or all at once. It’s a nice change to to get away from their desks and get some steps in!
- Socially-distanced events planned by social committee: These might include catered luncheons (sitting 6 feet apart in the cafeteria), staff celebrations, etc.
- Mindfulness: Pair these free “Hot Cocoa Breathing” cards with packets of hot cocoa mix and put them in all teachers’ mailboxes.
Acts of service
- Duty-free lunch: Arrange for volunteers to cover lunch duty (or other duties)
- Clear the clutter: Tidy up workrooms and shared spaces, including the microwave and refrigerators.
- A quick break: Volunteer to cover a teacher’s class for 15-30 minutes
Words of affirmation
- Purposeful inservice: Our district invited Gerry Brooks present a (virtual) inservice on boosting staff morale. He gave us so many wonderful, easy-to-implement suggestions!
- Staff shoutouts: Give staff members a chance to send in shoutouts to other staff members in the staff newsletter. Send reminders each time you need more.
- Staff celebrations: Establish a bulletin board in staff mailroom or work area for staff celebrations — birth announcements, special awards, etc.
- Encouragement: Put motivational notes in the bathroom or other common areas.
- Jeans Day: Announce a jeans day or jeans week!
- Passes: Recently I won a staff competition, and once of the choices of passes was a leave early pass. (I couldn’t take it because of my afternoon responsibilities, but it was a great thought!)
- Quiz Games: Play staff quiz-show games, such as trivia about each other. We recently played a fun Would You Rather? game by The Counseling Teacher Brandy.
- Get creative: Our art teacher hosted a 2-day ceramics class where we made bowls. She then fired our glazed creations in the kiln. It was so exciting to see the finished design! We did this over the course of 2 workdays (several weeks apart). We sat 6′ apart in the cafeteria and talked/listened to music while we worked.
- Exercise: Find a group to walk or run together after school. Plan to meet outside or map out a route inside the school. Challenge each other, make it competitive, or just enjoy the company and conversation.
- Book club: Host a book club outside of school with a book that is not professional development related. These days, it may have to be virtual. Some great books I’ve read lately have been Where the Crawdads Sing, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Big Lies in a Small Town, Just Mercy, Dear Edward, A Good Neighborhood, and Oona Out of Order.
- Competition: Ask each faculty member to submit their Bitmoji (facing forward). Combine them into one group photo. Make a copy, number each person, and send out a blank key with all the numbers. Staff members will guess whose Bitmoji is whose, and submit their entries. Give a prize to the person who guesses the most staff members accurately. (I won 2 weeks of jeans days from this contest!)
- Therapy dog: Teachers and students alike always enjoy time with our school therapy dogs.
- Showcase staff talent: Putting art created by teachers in the school’s display cases at the beginning of the year before they fill up with student artwork. If you are virtual, create a virtual display or talent show using pictures and videos submitted by staff.
- Spirit wear: Host theme days at school (or online) around holidays or spirit week. We even make a fundraiser with Hat Day — students pay $1 to wear a hat, and the money collected goes to a national charity.
- Create a virtual self-care room: link calming and mindfulness videos and activities.
What are some of your favorite morale boosters? Without taking on too much extra work for yourself, is there something from this list (or another idea) you can offer to your staff? Do you have a specific gift you can offer the staff, such as leading a painting class? Do you have a connection to someone who can offer some of their gifts? Think outside the box — after all, I bet you’ve gotten pretty good at it by now! 😉
I hope you have a safe, healthy, and peaceful holiday season!