Quote of the Day

Our thoughts, our attitude, and our actions in the morning can have a strong effect on our whole day. We may wake up feeling happy, depressed, energetic, exhausted, etc.  We can either expect to have a good day or to focus on our problems and all the things on our to-do lists. Our thoughts create our emotions. We have control over our thoughts and also have the power to start our day on a positive note. This is something I strive to do for myself every morning and encourage our team to do the same. 

On a “normal” non-Distance Learning school day, a simple, daily practice I did and that I know many leaders do as well, was to write an inspirational “Quote of the Day” on the whiteboard next to the staff mailboxes. Words are powerful and a  little morning inspiration can go a long way. The “Quote of the Day” didn’t affect every person in the same way; and that’s okay. The “Quote of the Day” was put there with the hopes that it would  encourage and uplift those that needed it that day. It served as a reminder for us to start the morning on a positive note and conquer the day. 

In Spring 2020, when we unexpectedly transitioned to Distance Learning due to COVID-19, I stopped to reflect and think about which leadership practices could possibly transfer to a virtual setting.  Sharing a “Quote of the Day” was one practice that could easily be done remotely. The question was, “What platform would I use to send out the quote?”

Luckily, I already had all my staff signed up on Remind. It’s an easy tool I was already using to get a quick, short, or urgent message to my team throughout the school year. I realized that I could leverage this app’s functions to send out the daily “Quote of the Day.” One Remind’s best features is that that you can schedule your posts ahead of time if needed. I scheduled the daily quote to go out at 7:30 am, every morning. I continued this practice until the end of the school year and have continued doing this since we’ve returned this school year. I send out quotes that speak to me with the hopes that it will also speak to someone else. If the quote helps just one person start their day on a good note, then it was all worth it! 

You might be thinking, “I don’t have Remind and I don’t have time to look for motivational quotes.” No worries!  Sending a daily or weekly email with an inspirational quote may work just as well. There are endless possibilities to how you can send the quotes. It’s not what tool you use, but the words you send, that matter. 

If time to find a daily quote is too much for you to take on right now, I’ve got you covered! I’ve uploaded over 100 quote images into THIS Google Folder. You can start using them TODAY! The majority of the quote images  you’ll see in the folder are quotes that I have used. I will keep adding new quote images to the folder throughout the school year so you can continue to have options to choose from. You’re welcome :). 

I hope this post and quote images collection will inspire you to inspire others. Keep being amazing and remember to “Keep it Simple.”


Resource: Google Folder with over 100 quote images

Monday Check-Ins & Virtual Postcards

Welcome back to a new and VERY different school year! Creating and maintaining positive school cultures during a “normal” school year takes intentionality and creativity. Creating and maintaining positive school cultures through a pandemic, well…that is a challenge like no other, to say the least! If the beginning of the school year has been anything like mine, you’ve probably been feeling the roller coaster of emotions as we work through finding answers to many unforeseen challenges. Our staff is feeling those same up and down emotions that come from having to navigate situations and expectations that they’ve never experienced before. Maintaining spirits high, acknowledging our team’s efforts, sharing encouraging words and differentiating the level of support individual team members need are critical leadership components that need to be at the top of our priority list. Relationship building; the most important work. 

This school year, I was inspired to start supporting my staff in a way I’ve never done before. I used  Allyson Apsey’s “COVID-19 Monday Morning Staff Check-In” idea as a launching pad to get started. Take a couple of minutes to read her post for more detailed tips. For the second week, I’ve sent out THIS “Monday Morning Check-In” Google Form to our team. The beauty of using a Google Form is that it compiles all the responses on one spreadsheet. I use that spreadsheet to see how our team is feeling at the beginning of the week, what celebrations and wins they’ve had, what questions they may have, and what specific support they could use from me. This is where the differentiated support comes in! Just like students need different supports at different times, staff does too. Something as simple as using a Google Form once a week to check-in with your team can make a huge difference in helping your team successfully navigate these turbulent times. 

This week, my heart was full of joy after reading so many of the celebrations, wins and victories our team shared on their “Monday Morning Check-In” form. I wanted to find a way to let them know I was just as excited for them and to encourage them to keep finding those “shining star” moments in the midst of teaching through this pandemic. I immediately thought back to something I wrote about and started doing for our team when we abruptly transitioned into Distance Learning last Spring and; sending Digital Postcards. I used THIS template that my colleague, Judith Servin, created after being inspired by the initial template I shared with her, and made time to “write” (type) and “mail” (email) virtual postcards to all those that submitted their check-in forms. Our team loved receiving these just as much as I loved sending them. Below are just a few of the responses I received from my team this week. You will see that not only does our staff feel appreciated, they also get inspired to show that appreciation and acknowledgement to their students.

  • “Thank you Jessica! You made my day! I’m going to steal your postcard and send it to my kiddos who are doing the work! I bet they will love it.”
  • “Thank you so much for my digital postcard.  It is adorable and made my day.  I would love to send my students a card like this.  I am sure they would LOVE it. “
  • “Thank you! I am going to borrow your template so I can use it with my kiddos. :)”
  • “Thank you so much. ❤😁 I hope you are having a great day as well!”

Does this take time to do? Yes! Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Positive school cultures do not happen on their own. As a school leader, you must make this a priority and invest time in building it. My advice to you, though, is to keep it simple. Showing appreciation and acknowledging your team’s hard work and efforts should not feel complicated. It should feel great and doable. You can do this! 

If any of these two ideas seem like something you would love to use with your team, below are the templates ready to go for you! All you have to do is change the heading on the check-in form. On the virtual postcards, just delete my bitmojis and replace them with yours! If you need any help or have other great ideas to share, please reach out! Enjoy! 


Ready-to-Go Templates & Resources: 

End-of-the-Year Staff Meetings

I know I am not alone in saying that things have been a bit crazy lately! As educators, we went from looking forward to a much-needed Spring Break to (for many of us) working through our Spring Break back in March or April. Here we are now, either nearing the last day of school (or done with the school year altogether). Many of us are probably planning our last staff meeting of the year (or Staff Gathering, as I like to call it) and may need some fun ideas to incorporate into the meeting.   

This year we’ve had to get creative on how to make our meetings memorable, fun, and celebratory via video. To overcome this challenge, I did what I do best; I reached out to my PLN to seek ideas. Sure enough, they came through and shared some wonderful ideas. I took some of those ideas and made it work for what I needed. Below are some ideas that I incorporated into my last Staff Gathering of the year that might help inspire other ideas for you. 

Have Fun with a Theme

Created on Canva.com

Because summer break was only 4 working days away, I asked our team to come to our Staff Gathering wearing a fun summer hat, glasses or bring any other fun summer prop. It definitely added energy and fun to the meeting. 

Maybe you can make it a fun Hawaian, 80s or 90s, or Carnival theme. Maybe you can just continue with the theme you’ve used during the school year (if you had one) or simply wear your school shirts and hats to show unity. The possibilities are endless! Here’s a picture of pic of us with our summer hats.

1-Word Check-In

Even though there were at least 40 of us on the video gathering, I felt it was important to take some time at the beginning to do a quick “check-in.” I asked everyone to think of one word that would describe how they were feeling that day and to share with energy and enthusiasm. We didn’t need explanations of why they chose their word; it just gave them a space to share and to acknowledge their feelings. We went through everyone’s word fairly quickly. Here’s a Wordle picture of how our team was feeling that day. As you can see, there were lots of different emotions and states of being; every feeling was honored.

2 Stars & 1 Wish

My dear friend & fellow principal, Veronica Rodriguez, shared this great idea; 2 Stars and 1 Wish. Going with my summer theme, I connected it to starfish. Staff used the chat to share 2 things they cherished or were memorable this year and 1 thing they are looking forward to next school year. We had some quiet reflective time to do this while I played some light background music. We took a few minutes to read through all the comments that were added in the chat. The reflective part of this activity helped us realize how much there was to celebrate and to be proud of. 

“Name that Tune” Game

My friends and colleagues, Jennifer Kloczko and Rachael Peck, who were inspired by our fellow #MomsAsPrincpals colleague, Liz Garden, shared this idea with me; “Name that Tune” game. We had fun seeing how many songs our staff could figure out. The top three winners received $5 Starbucks e-cards. This was fun! Click HERE for a copy of the Google Slide Show the amazing Jennifer Kloczko shared with me.

Read Aloud

If you have never done a read aloud for your staff, you should try it! I love to do this throughout the year, but especially at our last Staff Gathering of the year. This year, I found this gem, Because I Had a Teacher.  I read it aloud to my staff to remind them of how amazing they are and how large of an impact they make on students’ lives. 

Picture Slideshow

If you are anything like me and love to take pictures of special moments throughout the school year, your camera is probably full of pics! I used the VERY easy Quik app to create this 2019.2020 picture slideshow! It’s always so special to see pictures starting from the first day teachers return to work to the last days of the school year. This is definitely a tear-jerker for me especially as I put it together. Check out our staff 2019.2020 slideshow HERE to get an idea of what you can do with the app if you’ve never used it. 

Toast to a Great Year

I asked everyone to bring a cup, glass, mug, etc. with their favorite non-alcoholic summer beverage to “toast” to a great year. We traditionally get apple cider for the last Staff Gathering of the school year, but since we weren’t physically together, this was the next best thing to do. We raised our glasses to toast to a wonderful 2019.2020 school year and ended with cheers, smiles and joy!

I hope these few ideas have inspired you to use some, all, or helped kickstart new ideas. These ideas may come too late to use this school year, but there’s always the start of next school year to inspire you! I’m sure you have many, many, many more ideas that you’ve incorporated into your End of Year Staff Meetings. Let’s share those great ideas! When we share, we are #BetterTogether! 


Collaborative Team Recipe “Book”

Today we held our first “Coffee & Check-In” with our school team. I got this great idea from one of my principal Facebook groups. In the 30 minutes we took to catch up with one another, we discovered a few things about one another like the fact that one teacher had tried her first Facebook Live “Pajama Read Aloud” with her students, another recorded her first Read Aloud using a cool green screen background, another used her YouTube channel to share fun challenges for her students, and yet another stepped out of her comfort zone and used Flipgrid to record a cooking video to encourage her students to make the easy recipes at home. That triggered an idea!

Now that we are in #Quarantine2020, we are cooking a lot more at home. If you are anything like me, I run out of meal ideas real quick. I asked my staff what they thought about starting a Team Recipe Book and they really liked the idea. We have some pretty amazing cooks on our staff so I knew they would have lots of amazing recipes to share.

As a result, using Google Slides, I created a recipe “book” for our school team. We are going to add our favorite recipes (i.e., main dishes, side dishes, desserts, drinks, etc.) for all to benefit from. All we have to do is find an empty slide and add our recipe details. The best part is that this will become a “living” digital book that we can continue to add to over the years! All we have to do is keep duplicating blank slides.

I can’t wait to try the many recipes my team shares! If you would like to try this with your teams, click HERE and make a copy of the Google Slide template we are using. It’s nothing fancy, but it will do the trick. Feel free to use, share, modify, etc. I’m sure your team would love this too! Happy cooking, friends!


Digital Postcards

As school leaders, you have probably visited more “classes” than you have in quite a while now that we are living a “Distance Learning” life. It has been so amazing to be able to “visit” so many online classes and get to see our students’ and teachers’ faces, say hello, be part of their learning, and see all the amazing things happening during those online classes.

As I sit back and observe the student to student, teacher to student, and student to teacher interactions, often, my eyes well up with tears of pride and joy. I’m sure that I am not alone in feeling this way. As we are nearing our first week of Distance Learning, I wanted to find a way to let my team know how proud I am of them and how excited I was to see the fabulous things happening in their “classes.” I thought about sending them a text, an email, or even mailing a handwritten postcard. As I was scrolling through my social media feeds, I came across the idea of sending digital postcards to students using Google Slides. That immediately inspired me to create a version of a digital postcard that I could use with my staff.

This week, I’m going to start sending these out to my team to let them know how much I appreciate their hard work and to share all the great things I saw in their “classes.” They will not only get a typed message on the postcard, but they will also get to hear a voice recorded message to make it even more special (see the template for a sample message).

Click HERE to view a copy of the Google Slides digital postcard I created. Feel free to make your own copy, modify, and share with others! I hope this will help you share your joy and pride with your staff and students as well!


Weekly Bulletins & Staff Shoutouts

It’s become a reality, or will soon become a reality, for just about every school district in the country, that schools will remain closed through the end of the 2019.2020 school year. In California, the decision was made a couple weeks back on April 1, 2020, that students would not be returning. It was heart-breaking news, but not a surprise.

I’ve now had a couple of weeks to process what this means for me as a school leader. I am a very hands-on, relationship-building type of principal who loves to celebrate and see others celebrate our students and staff in as many ways as possible. How would I do that now that I’m forced to lead from a chair, in front of a computer, from home? How would I keep some type of routine and normalcy for our students and staff? Now that I’ve had time to process this, the ideas have started coming! There are things we did week after week that can still be done no matter where we teach or lead from.

We officially begin Distance Learning tomorrow, April 13th, so it’s almost like a “Welcome Back” week. Therefore, I did what I always did every Sunday evening; send out our weekly “Paw Talk” a.k.a, staff bulletin. Yes, the schedule for the week is an important section in our bulletin, but even more important, is our “Staff Shoutouts.” We started this section a couple of years ago. It’s a simple way for staff to publicly celebrate and thank one another for going above and beyond. These shoutouts get submitted through a Google Form that is always embedded in our weekly SMORE bulletin. Every single adult on campus can share a shoutout. Last week, I shared out the “Shoutout” Google form with my staff again since it’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve used it. With our team working very hard to get ready for launching Distance Learning, I expected there to be a few more “shoutouts” than usual. The amount that actually got submitted brought tears to my eyes! The level of appreciation my team has for one another is like no other. Take a look at all the amazing “shoutouts” they gave out this week!

So if you need an easy, but VERY meaningful way to keep staff morale high and keep the celebrations coming, then consider doing something like this. It takes three easy steps:

  1. Create a simple Google Form for your team to submit their “shoutouts.” Click HERE to make a copy of what we use.
  2. Open the Google Sheet with the responses from the Google Form.
  3. Share the “shoutout” responses from the Google Sheet to your bulletin, blog, email, etc.

I hope you consider trying something like this. It’s a beautiful thing to see how much stronger teams can get during difficult times. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate all the small and large victories!


Padlet of “Remote Learning” Resources

It is amazing to see how the educational community has rallied together to support one another through this challenging time by being generous with their resources and expertise. It is incredible how many people are sharing via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Friday was our last day before Spring Break. We left on Friday not knowing whether our district would be closing schools after our scheduled return. As you can imagine, this left our team, students, and families a little anxious about what was to come.

At Alice Birney Elementary, like at so many other schools across our nation, our team works together to lift up and support one another in any way possible. In the event of a school closure, I thought it might be a good idea to set up a Padlet of resources for our teachers in the event that we did not return on our scheduled date. At the time (Thursday evening) I did not realize how many amazing resources educators from across the country would be sharing with others. Since last week, the resources added on our Padlet has grown from just one or two resources to many resources.

I am sharing this Padlet with you all with the hopes that it could maybe help you, too. If you come across additional resources, please feel free to add a post and share with others. We are #bettertogether!

Thank you in advance for helping to build one another up during a time that we probably never thought we’d be experiencing. We need each other now, more than ever. Remember to give yourself and others grace, stay at peace, and take care of yourself. As much as possible, try to check in on your colleagues and students. We are all doing our best to navigate these waters and we could all benefit from a little extra “love.”


High Five Fridays

Hello friends! Need a fun and easy way to bring smiles to your students’ and colleagues’ faces, especially on a Friday? How about starting “High Five Fridays?” Two of my #MomsAsPrincipals friends, Onica Mayers and Cathy Jacobs shared the “High Five Fridays” idea on our Voxer group some time ago. They ordered foam paw mitts for their school staff to wear on Fridays to greet students and colleagues with a “high five.” I knew this idea was something that would be simple and fun to start at our school, too, so I finally ordered some this year. 

For under $200, I was able to order 100 personalized foam paw mitts. We ordered ours from PositivePromotions.com. This past Friday we greeted our students and colleagues with “High Fives” using our new, fun paws. It was a hit! It’s amazing how a simple thing like giving someone a “high five” with a foam paw mitt can bring a smile to a student and colleague’s face on a Friday. It was great! This will now be a Friday tradition at our school! 

I encouraged our team to use the paws in other fun ways as well. One of our teachers captured a special moment between two students who used her foam paw to “high five” one another to celebrate their learning. Another teacher borrowed her colleague’s paw and put one on each hand to “high five” our students at dismissal! What a special way to send our students off on Friday afternoon! 

Even if you don’t have the funds for the paws or want to get started on this simple culture-building idea right away, just start by giving out regular old “high fives” on Fridays! Maybe you can even have staff use a fun glove for “High Five Fridays.” It’s not about the paw; it’s about the relationship and connection that is built with students. 

Please share your ideas for how you can use “High Five Fridays’ at your school site! Keep being amazing and building up your teams! And remember….KEEP IT SIMPLE! 

“The Trader Joes Bag”

Monthly Principal Read Alouds

A simple Trader Joe’s Bag has been one of the biggest culture-changers on my campus. How can that be? A reusable grocery bag? Yes! One of the best things I’ve done as a principal is to start Monthly Principal Read Alouds. What started as an idea I “borrowed” from someone in my Professional Learning Network (PLN) quickly  morphed into a huge culture-changer. Initially, my goals for starting read alouds in the classrooms, were for me to build stronger relationships with students, give me a chance to get my “kid & classroom fix,” and to give teachers a free 30-minute block of time for them to run to the restroom, grab a cup of coffee, run to make some coffee, or simply just to take a breather. 

The Trader Joe’s bag became a defining object for me after about a couple of months of reading to classrooms when a student who was returning back to class from the restroom asked me if I was coming to read to their class. I asked him how he knew that I was going to read to a classroom, since I had nothing in my hands, just a bag hanging over my shoulder. He said to me, “…because you have your ‘reading’ bag.” When I looked to see what “reading bag” he was referring to, I realized it was the Trader Joe’s bag. Two months prior, that bag happened to just be a bag I grabbed from my office to put my book, activity materials, water bottle, etc., into.  Never did I think that our students would associate “the bag” with me coming to read in classrooms. That’s when I knew I was making an impact on my campus. The bag=reading in classrooms=kids were excited. Needless to say, four years later, I still use that Trader Joe’s bag! 

So how does it all work? Simple. 


Working around my schedule, I create 30-minute appointment slots on our school’s Google Calendar every month. Teachers know the reading slots get posted at the beginning of the month. They find an available date and time that works best for them and sign up. If none of the slots work within their schedule, they could always email me and I do my best to fit them in to my calendar. If you are not sure how to schedule appointments on a shared Google Calendar, check out this YouTube tutorial. Setting up a simple Google Doc or Google Sheet sign-up works great too. 

Reading and Class Activities 

When I come in to read, the teacher has 30 free minutes. Some like to stay and hear the story; others use that time for a break or catch up on some work. It is completely up to them. After reading the story, we have a short discussion on the book’s theme or topic and then we do some kind of fun activity related to the theme. After four years of doing this, the kids know there will always be an activity and they can’t wait to find out what it’s going to be. This year, I ordered enough books to leave a copy in the classroom so they can add it to their classroom library. The students and staff have been so excited about this. It makes me just as happy to see their excitement when I tell them they will be keeping the book in their class. 

Choosing Books

Each summer, I put together my list of the upcoming school year’s read alouds. I am always looking for diverse and current picture book titles that have a great theme or character trait. My goal is to expose our students to picture books with characters that look like them as well as expose them to other cultures they may have never read about. I am very intentional on which books make it onto the upcoming year’s read aloud list. There are so many great book titles that it can be quite a challenge to choose. I have four different reading lists along with the activities I did for each book. Feel free to borrow, get inspired, and make them your own! 

Where to Start

Start with what you feel comfortable with. Maybe you just start by reading to one grade level. Maybe you ask a few teachers who you know would be happy to have you in their class. You don’t even have to do an activity with them. You can start by simply getting in a few classrooms and reading to kids. Wherever you start, just start! I promise you that you will not regret it. Before you know it, you will be impacting your school culture more than you ever thought. Kids and staff will see how much you value reading and that reading can be fun. 

I encourage you to just do it and have fun! Make this experience work for you and your school community. There is no right or wrong way of going about it. All you have to do is just start and let your creativity lead the way!

“Fab Fridays in February”

It’s February; the beginning of what can be a tough month for keeping staff energy and morale high. At this point in the year, we are entering our 7th  month of school and we are tired! We still have quite a few weeks to go before Spring Break, so how about planning “Fab Fridays in February?” Planning something fun every Friday in February would be a perfect way to look forward to the end of each week this month. 

Many of you may already do “Fab Fridays in February” plus other fun events throughout the month, but many of you maybe never thought about this idea. “Fab Fridays” can be  as simple or as elaborate as you would like it to be. Basically, all you have to do is plan something fun like laying out some hearts and pens and encouraging your team to write notes of appreciation to a colleague or planning a “Sweet Treats Bar” where everyone brings their favorite sweet treat to the staff lounge for all to enjoy.  One of the funnest “Fab Friday” activities we’ve done in the past was “Find Your Match.” Each person got one half of a famous (real or cartoon) couple and they had to somehow locate their “other half.” Let’s just say our staff got VERY creative on finding their “matches.” When they found each other, they came in to pick a small prize. Click HERE and HERE to access PDFs of famous couples’ pictures already paired up for you. All you have to do is press print and cut them in half. 

Below are examples of what I’ve done in the past and examples of others’ “Fab Fridays.” I would also head over to my friend, Amber Teamann’s site at www.technicallyteamann.com and check out her Fab Friday post where she shares 5 lessons she’s learned along the way that may help make your “Fab Fridays in February” a success!  

Examples to Spark Ideas

I’ve been doing “Fab Fridays in February” for a few years now and there are always smiles and appreciation from our team. It’s such a great way to start a Friday morning. By no means did I come up with all the ideas on my own. I’ve been inspired by so many others’ ideas that it has allowed me to change it up a little bit every year. 

“Fab Fridays” don’t have to take hours and hours of your time, nor do they have to be planned ONLY by you. Ask for help. Get a team to help you plan some fun and simple ideas that others will enjoy. Get inspiration from Facebook groups, Twitter chats, Pinterest, etc.

If you get inspired to give “Fab Fridays in February” a shot, I’d love to see what you come up with! Please tag me on your Twitter or Instagram posts. There is so much inspiration I can gain from each one of you. I hope you consider trying “Fab Fridays.” If it feels like a little too much, too soon, no worries! Use some of the ideas and start planning for “Marvelous Mondays in March.” The possibilities are endless! 

Keep being amazing and building up your teams.  And remember… KEEP IT SIMPLE! 


“Fab Fridays in February”