Your Interesting Idea for this week is all about providing time each and every opportunity you have with staff to increase positive school climate.
Have your staff start to share appreciations.
Getting together as a staff is such a gift. It is something that has been missed in the past few years, so when you do get together make sure you use that opportunity to strengthen the relationships among staff as well as deepen everyone’s understanding about the important work you are doing. After spending time together if collectively we do not have a better concept of our work, processes or procedures and/or we don’t have a deeper committed relationship with each other than we have failed as a leader of that meeting. Deepen the content, deepen the relationships, each and every time.
Once “Appreciations” is explained and modelled once, it never needs explaining again. I simply said, does anyone have any appreciations they would like to make public.
A staff member would then indicate they wanted to acknowledge a colleague and share the sentence, “I would like to appreciate (name) for…” . They then would share a story about this person doing something that made the lives of those around them better. It may have been a direct impact on the person sharing or could be something they witnessed the person doing with a student/students that they felt needed to be celebrated.
It is the best way (the only way) to end a session together so people are leaving with good feelings about the people they work with. I still remember each Professional Activity Day prior to Thanksgiving weekend, when the sentence starter changed to ‘I am thankful for…’ (insert tears)
It was common for our new staff to our school or new to teaching to appreciate the mentorship of others. It was common for grade team partners to thank the other for taking on more of a load during a difficult time. It was common for an educational assistant to thank a partner for stepping in and assisting during a tough moment.
It was heartwarming to hear about someone performing continual random acts of kindness. It was heartwarming to hear someone appreciate a colleague’s programming, or their interactions with students. It was heartwarming to hear about a coaching session about a difficult conversation that needed to be practiced.
All of these were shared in the presence of the entire staff. One after the other.
Acknowledging some of the amazing, unknown, quiet brilliance that was happening in the school had a profound effect on the overall climate and culture in the school. Since this became part of our rituals, people were more willing to step forward and take on tasks. People stepped out into the spotlight and volunteered to run events and organize activities that were great for students. Momentum is a powerful thing.
It was never a popularity contest. People knew we wanted many stories, from many areas of the school, capturing many employee groups and job descriptions. And because they were not speaking about themselves it allowed all of us to hear about things happening that we would never have known.
Those that did not really enjoy speaking in public, would be more comfortable when it was about filling the bucket of another. Key to all of this? It is not just the individual being spoken about, but how it made the entire staff feel knowing that they work with amazing, dedicated, loving people each day. And don’t we all want that? It is important to acknowledge the acts of kindness that are happening in the school. It draws everyone in, and creates commitment to the place where they work. The relationships between and among the adults are important, especially in education where a great deal of your day may be spent away from other adults.
To get it going each time there were always two or three people that I could eye and they would get it started for me. No shame in having plants in the crowd.
The activity sends a subtle message to others about collaboration, and working positively with others. It illustrates the kind of working relationships that are possible in the school, and truly are a must. Difficult staff relationship conversations are easier when people can see what we are aiming for. It is inclusive because different teams and departments do not get to see the work of the entire staff, especially in a staff of 125 like we had. You may not know these people very well, but you are hearing great things about them, so you know they are in the right place.
There have been times when we have had to say, ‘okay, only two more’ because we could have kept going. We always share that if you did not get a chance to do it publicly would you find a time in the coming days to have a conversation with the person you want to recognize to share with them how they are appreciated by you. It is easy to start the conversation with, “I didn’t get a chance to share at the meeting and wanted to express to you my appreciation…’
Social science research is clear. Many adults comment that their unhappiness stems from a lack of recognition for the work they are doing.
If you have a concern that there is negative talk happening in the school, behind closed doors, or in the parking lot, then create a process where positive talk is modelled and celebrated. Combat the negative talk. Drown out the negative talk. As a great friend once said, it is hard to be a Eeyore, (Eeyore quote, ‘I was so upset, I forgot to be happy’) when you are surrounded by Tiggers (Tigger quote, ‘Put some bounce in your smile’) Like our students, staff need to hear way more positive comments then negative comments.
I appreciate that you have read this far in my blog!
Appreciations brought pride.
Appreciations brought laughter.
Appreciations brought tears.
Most importantly, appreciations brought us together.