Educators are part of the most important, demanding, and meaningful profession in the nation. The amount of energy, thought, and caring necessary to lead effective classrooms and schools is astounding.
Finding ways to celebrate at the end of the year, especially when new technologies and programs have been implemented, is key to maintaining a positive culture. Classroom strategies (such as Kickboard) and new programs that impact the classroom are some of the most consequential for teachers. Remembering the story of their impact is key to shaping a school culture.
In a prior blog, I shared some ideas on strategies for end-of-the-year celebration and recognition events. Let’s look at some additional strategies.
You may wish to consider which strategy will be relevant and consequential for staff, students, community and stakeholders. Be thoughtful in choosing which to employ.
Here are some ideas:
- Post on your website the measurable and important successes of the year (reduced suspensions, number of teachers returning next year, decreased absenteeism, percentage of students graduating or moving on to the next grade, improved positive behavioral feedback in the classroom, the number of rewards earned for positive social emotional and character development outcomes, and other measures that resonate with your school and community).
- Directly communicate with students who have made the most progress in their behavior and social emotional development. Thank them personally and authentically. Keep some record or index of whom you have talked with and why. Return to these narratives over the summer or as school opens.
- Privately thank staff, parents, students, and others who have provided meaningful support for improving the quality of positive behavioral efforts in the classroom, hallways, and school. Make these thanks widespread, meaningful, and authentic. Use multiple media: face-to-face, handwritten notes, typed thanks (yes typed), a quick comment in the hallway as staff are packing up, and so forth.
- Design your own personal and creative ways to publicly or privately recognize and thank those who have made a difference. Rebecca Royal, principal of South Mebane Elementary, has a wall of “Royal Recognitions”-- pun intended (Deal and Peterson, 2016). Be innovative, perhaps humorous, as you recognize accomplishments and thank those who have modeled improvement and the core values of the school.
- Use social media (the school website, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, the principal’s blog, and so forth) to tell stories of success and comment on accomplishments of the year. Recognize special occurrences that show how the school is improving in positive behavior interactions in the classroom, supporting the social emotional and character development of students, and impacting a variety of important school outcomes. Words, videos, and photos add a dramatic anchor to narratives. Reminder: use these avenues at the end of the year, but repeat or add comments and examples on a regular basis over the summer. (See future blogs on other strategies.)
Make these stories, narratives, and commentaries meaningful, authentic, and precise. They celebrate real changes and efforts toward success (even though there may have been challenges along the way).
With these concrete and multi-message celebrations of successes, schools deepen the foundation their culture, cement the positive message of hope and possibility, and provide staff, students, and community with a solid reminder of the year that they can carry into the summer.
Without these messages, the last days of school can be devoid of the joys of remembering the good all have done to support student growth academically, but also growth in positive behaviors and social emotional character development. Make the end of the year a starting point for a summer of joyful remembrance.
Emeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison | Kickboard Advisory Board Member
#1 Celebrating Accomplishments at the End of the Year
#3 Reinforce Culture over the Summer to Nurture Core Commitments