Celebrating meaningful accomplishments at the end of the year sets the foundation for the coming year. But continuing to reinforce the culture over the summer is a powerful and meaningful time to nurture, reinforce, and shape the school’s core commitments.
School leaders have a variety of strategies they can use to link with staff during this break in teaching. Leaders should not lose sight of this opportunity to continue strengthening relationships with and between staff members, communicating core values, and keeping the hearts and minds of everyone vibrant.
Below are some strategies and opportunities that have worked to connect with staff over the summer.
- Plan to regularly send off stories from the year either by email, Twitter, Instagram or on the website. Stories are potent reminders of the accomplishments and key events of the year. Remembering the efforts put into new instructional strategies, implementation of successful new classroom behavior management programs, or new traditions bring to mind what staff have achieved. Stories should capture the head, heart, and core narratives of the year.
- Photos, short videos, or pictures engage people viscerally. They offer immediate messages and reminiscences of key rituals, traditions, or celebrations, and thus remind staff, students, and the community of good times and special events that they may experience again next year. These visual markers prompt strong reactions and should be spread throughout the summer.
- In the summer, it is sometimes easier to get to notes of thanks to individuals. The school year is busy, but when that memory pops in your head in July or August, send off a meaningful thank you.
- A staff book study is another way to continue reinforcing your school's culture. Have the whole staff, or grade level teams, read the same book over the summer to discuss when they return. There are innumerable powerful and deep books about the impact of education on the lives of students. But even short children’s books can provide an impetus for individuals to reflect on their commitments and reasons for being an educator.
- Quotes about education, teaching, and the power of learning are shorter, but no less effective ways of reinforcing values of the school culture. The Internet, books, and colleagues are always good sources of quotes. A set of 8-10 quotes sent off weekly can add enough stimuli for staff to keep reflecting on the coming year.
- Some schools find ways to hold more communal gatherings such as a film fest of favorite educational movies, a storytelling contest around a campfire, or a picnic at a local park or lake where the setting offers time to share, reflect, and muse on staff members’ values. Not everyone needs to attend, but these events can be significant ways to keep people connected, communicating, and reflecting on their roles in the school and the values of the culture.
Make the most of the opportunity over the summer to keep the school culture nurtured and alive. Yes, staff and leaders need time to recharge and relax, but finding a varied set of ways to keep connected can remind staff of the hard work that was expended, the values that have been lived, the significance of the school culture, and the importance of relationships among staff.
Emeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison | Kickboard Advisory Board Member
Other posts in this three-part series:
#1 Celebrating Accomplishments at the End of the Year
#2 Multiple Strategies to Celebrate Success and Recognize Staff