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: