Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wins and Fails in Staff Morale Boosting!

We win some, we lose some! Here are some of my WINS and FAILS when it comes to boosting staff morale. I use the terms WIN and FAIL quite loosely as any effort is really a win. The FAILS mentioned below are examples of things that didn't have the full effect that I hoped or took a lot of time/money/energy. Let's start with some positive ones though!

WIN: Bulletin Boards in the Staff Lounge! There are two main bulletin boards that I like to do in the staff lounge that I have found to be successful. One is a stress relief board that I purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers. It was created by Traci R Brown and I have really enjoyed it. The staff liked it too and I had some positive feedback from them. The other that I do is towards the end-of-the-year and there is a quote that says "We Came as Strangers, We Leave as Friends" (my current school has a transient teacher population, however you could change up the quote). I then post a collage of pictures of the staff throughout the year, especially from major school events. I do my best to get as many of the teachers represented as I can. Afterwards, I give the teachers the copy of the picture that was posted. There were quite a few teachers that became emotional when seeing it and overwhelmingly there was a positive response. In my opinion, I feel that both displays can brighten up someone's day!

WIN: "You Have Been Mugged!" initiative. I found this morale boosting activity through Pinterest! The premise is that you take a mug, fill it with small treats and then secretively post it on someone's desk. Their job is to then refill the mug (or buy a new one) and then keep it going by giving it to someone else! This is the first year I have tried it, and it has been a big hit! **It should be noted that there were 3 separate mugs were circulating at one time**

WIN: Random Acts of Kindness Week. Random Acts of Kindness week is a big initiative at our school. We host it in the middle of February, right after our TET holiday. The kids get into it, the teachers get into it, and it is a lot fun! Search under the RAK label on my blog to find out more!

WIN: "From Your School Counselor..." note of the week. I have some stationary in my room that says "From Your School Counselor" at the top. Each week, I try to take the time to write a note to a teacher or staff member who I was thinking about or wanted to recognize. It takes 2 minutes to write a short note and then I leave it on their desk with a piece of candy. It is short, sweet, and to the point. 

WIN: "Mint to Teach" initiative. At the beginning of the year, I gave out Mint Tea satchets with a label that said, "You are Mint to Teach at AIS!". The teachers seem to like the idea and the satchets were very cheap. 

WIN: Keeping candy in your office! Simply put, I keep two jars of candy in my room. One that is fruit-flavored/mint candies and one that is chocolate.Teachers find out quickly that I keep a stash in my room and every time they drop-in I offer them some. A little sweetness can go a long way! 

WIN: Hosting Make-and-Take Mini-workshops. This is something I started new this year and it has been a big success! Once a quarter, I host a mini-workshop (about 30 minutes) and include some free resources for teachers and try to have a hands-on activity as well with it. For example, at the beginning of the year I hosted a "Creating a Cool Down Corner in Your Classroom" make-and-take. The teachers got to make stress balls and were able to take some FREE calm down posters to hang in their classroom/cool down corner. 

FAIL: "You Have Been Socked!"initiative. Last year, before doing the "You have been Mugged!" activity, a teacher approached me suggesting the "You Have Been Socked" activity. The activity is very similar, except you use a Christmas stocking instead. I was concerned about the Christmas theme at first, and didn't really trust my gut. It flopped for a few reasons...1) We only had two stockings 2) Stockings are a lot harder to fill 3) The Stockings became a little gross (things spilling, messy desks, etc) and 4) Some wished that it was not Christmas-related. 

FAIL: All Teacher Breakfasts. I have tried to do this, but I found it to be much more challenging than I thought. 1) It can be expensive, especially if you don't have the funding for it 2) It can be difficult to set up if you are doing it alone. It was pretty tricky for me and I found it to be the most expensive (as I was self-funding), However, I WOULD LOVE to try it again and see if it can work better! Have you tried this before? How did it go? 

FAIL: Wow Book! I love the idea of Wow Books. I think there are ways that it can be done very successfully...however my attempt was not successful. I used a notebook and decorated the cover with stickers and titled it "Wow Book!". It made it through about 3 people to my knowledge before it was forever lost in a sea of school supplies and notebooks. I am not sure where it ended up but it will probably be found at the end of the year when teachers are packing up their rooms! Hahah!

Teachers Pay Teacher Recommendations for Staff Morale Boosters

Monday, December 14, 2015

Staff Morale Boosting: Myths and Realities....

Boosting staff morale, especially during stressful times of the year can be challenging. As the School Counselor, I try my best to establish strong relationships with each one of the teachers and staff members at my school. Before I share some of things I do to help boost staff morale, I wanted to address some MYTHS vs. REALITIES (as I have found them) when it comes to Staff Morale...

MYTH #1: "The School Counselor cannot do much to boost staff morale, that is up to the teachers themselves and the principal."

REALITY #1: Counselors can definitely make a positive impact on the staff morale at their school if they try their best, work with on open heart and open mind, plan effectively, and stay consistent. Nothing will change if no one takes the first step. Changing morale in difficult environments is, by-no-means, a one person job. In an ideal world, everyone would do their part to contribute to a positive work environment...this is not always the case. However, the "ripple of kindness" can be endless, can inspire others and it CAN start with you! 

MYTH #2: "Teacher appreciation gifts and gestures are expensive and time consuming! I don't have time for that!"

REALITY #2: Yes, you are busy. Very busy. As School Counselors, we are constantly pulled in many directions. I understand the hesitation in committing to something else. For me, this part has been something that can be considered nothing more than trial and error. Some things took longer and cost more than I expected, others were surprisingly easy and convenient. Start of small and see where it takes you. There are lots of ways that you can help boost morale without spending money and that will take just a few minutes of your time. Check out some of my favorites below!

MYTH #3: "Teachers (especially Elementary Teachers) LOVE cute acts of kindness or recognition. Everyone will be on board if you do something like that!"

REALITY #3: No matter where you go, there are people that enjoy challenging positive initiatives and it may seem that they actually enjoy being negative. This goes for schools too! As a Pinterest fan, I find tons of cute staff morale boosting activities online. I have tried quite a few and it never fails, there is always AT LEAST one person who thinks it is silly or dumb, doesn't want to participate, or feels like it is too much or not enough. You can't please everyone, but I have found that most people have a positive response. 

MYTH #4: "People just don't care at my school. Nothing will help until this teacher/principal/director/etc. is gone!"

REALITY #4: More often than not, the people in your building do genuinely care about what they do and how they feel. There are always some people (as mentioned before) that don't respond positively no matter what you do. Try your best not to take it personally and KEEP trying. Some day you may strike a cord with them or someone you have encouraged may strike that cord with them! You never know where things can go and each new year can be full of surprises. It can be easy to get frustrated with negativity and negative people at your school. Remember, you can be the light for others and while your efforts may go thankless, they DO make a difference. 

So get out there, see what you can do to boost some staff morale! YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Have questions, comments, feedback? Share below!