Thanks to Mandy Ellis for this amazing idea! Such an easy culture-builder and way for staff to TREND the POSITIVE and show appreciation for each other!
Being a member of Melinda Miller & Amber Teamann’s Staff Motivation facebook group has connected with so many amazing administrators from around the country! Just when I thought Twitter was my ‘go-to’ for building my PLN, the new Facebook groups I’ve joined have come in to expand my already amazing network of connected, amazing principals!
While I’ve been surprising my staff with Fabulous Fridays in February for the past few years (check out a previous post here), connecting with other administrators has inspired me to try some fresh new ideas!
Here was our 2018 lineup:
Lattes on Location:
We surprised our staff with a ‘coffee on location’ company, who brought all the equipment needed to brew coffees and smoothies for our staff! We put a menu in each staff members’ mailbox the day before & had some student leaders deliver the drinks to our wonderful staff on a Friday morning!
February 11th-17th happened to be “Random Acts of Kindness Week” so I challenged the staff to a Kindness Challenge (another amazing idea shared on the Facebook group!) — I challenged staff to complete these simple, kind acts that would make our students’ and colleagues’ days just a bit brighter!
How does the Kindness Challenge work, you ask?
*Complete a challenge – mark it off on the challenge sheet
*Each challenge completed earns a TICKET in the raffle
*Earn an extra ticket for each challenge that is completed & shared on social media with the challenge hashtag
WINNER of the raffle……earns a HALF DAY OFF!
*And another amazing opportunity for me to sub in the classroom for the winning teacher 🙂
Inspired by Bethany Hill, we added a school Kindness Tree to our main hallway, and inspired our STUDENTS to brainstorm ways they can be kind friends & spread kindness!
Valentine’s Day Treats!
I stole this amazing little idea from Melinda Miller, who shared the idea of adding a bitmoji to a valentine’s card! Super cute, and easy!
…..and Amber Teamann’s adorably cute idea for admin team!
Valentine’s Read-Aloud in Classrooms
We love every opportunity we get to spend time int he classrooms to share our love of reading and new titles with students! It’s also a sweet treat for staff to have an extra 20 minute break!
Here are some of my February read-aloud favorites:
…..well it’s been a year since I’ve last blogged here, and while I intended to kick off 2018 with a blog post in January, it’s now the end of February. Better late than never, right? I’m constantly inspired by members of my PLN who blog and I want to challenge myself to write and reflect more on my practice as an educational leader. Thanks to those who have gently nudged me to hit the publish button more (Lindsy). Additionally, I want to use this blog as a place to share ideas in hopes of inspiring others.
Each January, I’m inspired to choose my 2018 #oneword (you can read about my choices from 2017, 2015, 2012). Jon Gordon’s one word movement is meant to give meaning and focus to our life. Rather than coming up with a list of resolutions that are typically broken, Jon Gordon encourages individuals to select one word as a focus. While I’ve encouraged staff members in the past to select one word to guide them into a new calendar year, I knew I wanted to do something more this year.
Amazing ideas from current principals and assistant principals are being shared on Melinda Miller and Amber Teamann‘s “Staff Appreciation & Motivation” Facebook group. If you’re not a member of this group, reach out to these two amazing leaders and join! I was inspired to leave a motivating message in each staff members’ mailbox to welcome them their first day back from winter break.
Also, as a way to engage families on our social media platforms, we posted the image below (again: borrowed from Amber Teamann & Melinda Miller) to our district Facebook page, asking families to share their favorite memory from Winter Break. Oftentimes, we use social media as a 1-way communication method to get information to our families, but I love this idea to engage them in 2-way dialogue!
At our first faculty meeting after returning from Winter Break, I wanted to incorporate opportunities for staff members to reflect on the first half of the school year, while setting some goals as we started the second semester. I knew I wanted the reflection portion of our meeting to stem from the image below (found on Instagram). While this could have easily been incorporated into our weekly staff blog post, I wanted the staff to share and grow from their conversations with each other.I wanted to collectively share and celebrate our successes and areas of greatest pride, and I wanted staff members to articulate their areas for growth or goals for the second half of the school year with their colleagues, as I know they will find support and motivation from those around them who will hold them accountable and support their growth.
Another amazing resource is Stephanie McConnell’s “Principal Principles Leadership Group” on Facebook. If you are not a subscriber to Stephanie’s “Principal Principles” newsletter, what are you waiting for? I received an email (while on winter break) with an amazing, creative idea to goal set for the upcoming calendar year.
Stephanie shared a template that we used, in addition to buying little glitter packets from Michael’s (again, all info included in her newsletter, and her blog post here). After our staff engaged in committing to their #oneword for the year, we went outside to pour the glitter packet in the palm of their hands and blow to ‘make a wish’. I asked each staff member to fill out a google form with their #oneword, as well.
I knew I wanted the staff members’ choices of their #oneword to resonate with them and serve as a meaningful focal point to guide their actions, words and life. I saw beautiful watercolor artwork from an educator in Texas on Instagram and reached out to her via Direct Message to see if I could commission her to create #oneword depictions for each staff member. She agreed and the products were amazingly beautiful and unique, just like each member of our school family. Laura Moore (@strong_i_stand on Instagram and @mooretolearn on Twitter) created a 4×6 watercolor painting and lettering of each staff member’s #oneword.
I purchased 4×6 frames from Walmart (2 pack for $1.87) and surprised the staff at a faculty meeting with their #oneword.
It’s wonderful to see each staff member proudly display their #oneword to serve as a continual reminder of their focus for the year.
We’ve all heard of Jon Gordon’s “One Word” that gives meaning & focus to your life? Jon suggests coming up with one word instead of list of resolutions.
“A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be a ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp or biting or rich and soft and slow. A single word can be a catalyst for enriching your life!”
I’ve joined the challenge to choose one word [albeit late]–a word to focus on, reflect upon as one goes about daily life. Can you identify a single word that sums up what you want for yourself in 2017? It can be something tangible or intangible…it could be a thought or a feeling or an emotion. The key is to find something that has personal meaning for you.
My word is PRIORITIES. This Stephen Covey quote below is a reminder for me to be sure that my priorities are part of my daily routine – to truly be present in each moment! At school, my priorities will be spending time in classrooms with students and teachers, ensuring high quality instruction engages our students daily! At home, my priorities will be trying to power down from work and social media in order to give my full attention to my family and children. It will also involve devoting time to my health and coursework as I embark on my next educational chapter! While I am a self-proclaimed “multi-tasker” I am genuinely going to try to be present in every moment I find myself in. Maybe it’s not about having “balance” in life. Aren’t both our personal and professional lives 24/7? It’s more about paying the right amount of attention to each one and recognizing that it’s going to be different every single day.
How often do we pause & think why we are grateful? This week is the quintessential time of year to reflect on the things, events, or people we appreciate. Better yet….if it’s a person, let them know how thankful you are for their role in your life. THANK YOU are two simple words that have the power to transform our health, happiness, performance, and success. Grateful people are happier & more likely to maintain good friendships. Gratitude and appreciation are also essential for a healthy work environment. A simple thank you can make all the difference. As principals, it’s important that we say thank you to those around us each and every day. What better way to spread gratitude around the school during the month of November than #ThankfulThursdays.
Each Thursday during the month of November, it was important to show our gratitude and a thankful spirit with the entire staff.
At this time of the year when we give thanks to those we care about, it’s important as the Lead Learner to offer sincere thanks to our entire school family. We have teachers and staff members who keep children at the forefront and work tirelessly to nurture every aspect of their growth. We have students who are invested in their learning & being kind to each other. These collective efforts make our school community the special place it is….and for that, I am thankful & appreciative.
Outward circumstances or conditions do not determine what our lives become nearly as much as the thoughts that dominate our minds & the people we surround ourselves with.
To read more about what I’m thankful for….check out our We Are Thankful #momsasprincipals blog post here.
It’s crazy to think another school year has come to an end! I read a post on Twitter by Bethany Hill:
I knew I wanted to continue to inspire, motivate and remind the staff to keep kids at at the heart of our daily interactions & experiences. We worked so hard all year to create a positive climate and culture, focused on kids, and Bethany’s message was a reminder that we needed to protect that culture! I scheduled a daily morning inspirational message on REMIND that included:
We also started what will sure to be an annual tradition of sending our students off in style on their last day. All staff lined the bus lane and gave high-fives to students as they boarded their bus for the final time this year. Our 3rd graders were the final students to board the busses (for the last time at Kennedy School) and….there were so many students with tears in their eyes! 🙁
As our busses pulled away from the curb, honking their horns, teachers waved goodbye and wished the children a wonderful summer! (Click the links below to see the videos)
The final thought we shared with staff (stolen from Venspired: credit goes to Krissy Venosdale) was:
“Just know that, even if nobody said “Thank You,” today, there’s a kid somewhere who loves you, who appreciates you, and who is wondering about something because of something you said in your classroom. Right now there might be a parent who thinks you are the best thing under the sun because you might be the very first person who has understood her child. There’s an administrator who is grateful to have you on staff at your school. At this very moment, there is a student close to graduating high school who found a photo from your classroom that she has saved all these years because you were her favorite. Tonight, a colleague of yours will go home with a smile because something you took the time to say today. One of your students that pretends not to care about his work will be working extra hard tonight, because he wants to show you he can do it.
You’re appreciated. You matter to more kids than I can count on my fingers and toes, and your message to the world will travel well into the future in the hearts of kids who will grow up with dreams and passions that all started right where you are. In your classroom.
Just in case you forget.”
What are your end-of-the-year traditions?
When our teacher from our Specialized Learning and Behavior Center (SLBC) classroom, who teaches 9 students who currently live with an Autism diagnosis, came to me with ideas on growing Autism Awareness at our school — I was so excited and eager to jump onboard this opportunity!
We sent the letter below home with all students:
Next, we ordered a great picture book, My Friend with Autism, by Beverly Bishop. for every two classrooms to share and read aloud to students. This book also included a CD with coloring pages. We also provided classroom teachers with The Autism Helper‘s Autism Awareness Unit. Each grade level was assigned a color and teachers were provide with blank cardboard puzzle pieces. Students participated in decorating the puzzle pieces, which became part of our school’s autism awareness tree.
Our PreK classrooms read the Sesame Street digital storybook “We’re Amazing, 1,2,3!” which features Elmo, Abby and their friend Julia, who has Autism. There are many great resources on Sesame Street’s website, which can be found here.
Each Friday, students in our school community wear blue as our school goes BLUE for AUTISM!
I was so proud of the lead teacher who came to me with this idea and knew we had to show our appreciation for the dedication she, and all of the paraprofessionals in our SLBC classroom exhibit daily as they support, love and advocate for their students. These teachers are true superheroes who are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their students make progress, feel safe and comfortable at school, and find ways for the children to demonstrate their brilliance, while celebrating every success and milestone! Their patience, love and perseverance MUST be honored and appreciated…..
We purchased white shadow-box frames from Michaels and decided to get crafty —
The National Autism Association has amazing photos on their Facebook page and it was my goal to find a unique image/quote for each staff member. I ordered a puzzle piece Fiscars Squeeze Punch, and used paint swatch samples from the hardware store to punch out puzzle pieces in various shades of blue as accents to the quotes. The final products turned out amazing & it was just a small token of our appreciation for all that our staff does!
What is your school community doing to participate in Autism Awareness month?
While the quote above captures the sentiment I relay to staff around this time of each year, schools are always looking for fun ways to enjoy the final weeks of school. Although the end of the year can be tempting to hit the “cruise control” button, it’s important that we make a commitment to finish the year as strong as we started & not hit the cruise control button….our kids deserve better! Students will feed off our attitude and if we expect the best from them, then we must give them the best of us!
Rick Wormeli says it best,
“Don’t waste the last few weeks of school on fluff and babysitting experiences. It’s not only boring to students, it’s unethical. Choose a day very soon to begin planning for one of the highlights of the year: the experiences of those last few weeks.”
Each and every day our students need us. Remember that you may be the only constant presence in some of your students’ lives. Make a choice each day for your presence to be a positive, constant factor. It’s a great opportunity that we have to come to school and have an impact on students’ lives from day to day. We all became educators because we care about kids.
Our school has always participated in an ABC Countdown, which counts the final 26 days of the school year in a fun, engaging way (see below: we start our countdown on THURSDAY!)
It’s important to look at the end of the year as a stage for next year. A strong finish helps build for a successful year to come. Although ABC countdowns make the final 26 days fun, we must also ensure a strong finish and a positive launch into the next school year! Try to keep the following in mind:
*Have high expectations for all. The end of the school year is not only about celebrations. It’s about learning. Focus on what’s important and find the balance between keeping the learning at the forefront of your classroom and enjoying those “end of the year” celebrations.
*Be well planned. Act with intention and purpose each day! Students thrive on routine and consistency. Just because the weather is getting warmer and field trips are blooming, the last thing you want to do is lose focus. It’s important to ensure that the learning process continues to bloom and that students are engaged.
*Keep a positive and hopeful attitude. This time of the year can be emotional and exhausting for all. Remember to find the good stuff. It’s there if you take time to look for it.
Why not capitalize on current events and use them to inspire school-wide activities?
We solicited the help from our PE teachers & librarian to create a Pinterest-inspired book match-up version of a March Madness bracket.
Our field started with 16 favorites: the most popular books from our own school community. For each round of our “tournament” classroom teachers would ask students to cast 1 classroom VOTE for their favorite book in each match-up. We sent the teachers a Google Form that showed the match-ups.
How do you bring trending events to your school in a kid-friendly way?
If you work in an elementary building, you’ll agree that St. Patrick’s Day in a Kindergarten classroom is almost as exciting and magical as the Gingerbread Day! Our Kindergarten students created leprechaun traps at home and were so excited setting their traps before leaving their classrooms for recess/lunch. Upon returning, the students found a mess in their classroom, chairs knocked over, gold glitter or other leprechaun “clues” around, as well as a note from their small, sneaky little leprechaun friend. Today was truly a magical day for our Kindergarten student. They experienced true joy, laughter and happiness! I truly enjoyed watching the students’ reaction and sharing in their experience that will surely be a memory they’ll never forget! Not only did the sneaky leprechaun leave a mess in the Kindergarten classrooms, he also sprinkled IMAGINATION and HOPE ~ for a split second, our 5 and 6 year olds enjoyed a day without benchmarks, or assessments. The truly enjoyed the magic of believing and being an innocent, hopeful child!
In addition to the magic experienced in our Kindergarten classrooms, our school ran our annual Pennies for Patients fundraising campaign from March 1st-March 17th. All donations raised benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Since 1994, millions of dollars have been raised in pennies and other spare change by more than 10 million elementary, middle and high school students throughout the country.
In this year’s Pennies for Patients campaign at Kennedy School, students earned a “shamrock” paper cut-out to place on their classroom door each time they brought a box filled with coins. The classroom with the most “shamrocks” on their door would be recipients of a SHAMROCK SHAKE party on the Friday before Spring Break! Also, as an extra motivator for our students to participate in this fundraising campaign, we set a school-wide goal of $3,400 (an increase from what our school raised last year). We promised our students, if they were able to collectively raise at least $3,400, the principals would dye their hair green on St. Patrick’s Day!
As a school, I’m proud to announce that we raised $4,015.27 ~ exceeding our goal of $3,400! We are very proud of the generosity demonstrated by the children of Kennedy School!
I encourage everyone to see the world from a child’s perspective….it surely won’t disappoint!
In the midst of PARCC testing, and planning for the 2016-2017 school year, a principal can easily get bogged down with budgeting, staffing, scheduling and end-of-the-year preparations. It’s important to always spend time to experience the curiosity and wonder that accompanies learning experiences each day with our students! #KIDSDESERVEIT