A collaborative post with @allysonapsey, @Tim_McDermott1, and @jodiepierpoint
A culture of celebration can be created and fostered through celebrating the little things everyday.
“Give people high fives just for getting out of bed. Being a person is hard sometimes.”
As educators, there are things that we can celebrate any day of the week. We love kids, we work to get better every day, we work through challenges, we embrace changes we never asked for, and on and on.
As a principal, my main customers are my staff members. I celebrate them in many ways:
- Positive feedback for their awesomeness, sharing specifically the amazing things they are doing for kids.
- Allow the school community to celebrate with us by posting videos on YouTube highlighting strengths. Here is an example: https://youtu.be/SQjpZIvrP0Q.
- Tweeting out the great things teachers are doing for our kids:
Key to culture of celebration is the consistency and focusing on specific things that contribute to the culture and the success of students. When the school leader celebrates teachers and their successes, teachers will celebrate students and their successes.
Celebrating the little successes every day leads to big successes! Amazing things happen when people feel positive and strong–they celebrate each other, they are willing to take risks, they approach problems with a growth mindset, and there is joy in the air.
Developing relational culture takes time
Developing relational culture takes time. That is why it is important for principals to celebrate the wins as teachers make changes with their instructional practices, the way they collaborate, the way they manage their classrooms, or when they take risks and try something new. The small wins matter to people (Amabile & Kramer, 2011). They build momentum and keep people moving. A talented principal recognizes these moments and knows when to celebrate and recognize them. DuFour (2015) states, “Effective principals will not wait for monumental accomplishments before celebrating” (p. 242). A culture of celebration and recognition leads to developing further trust among the members of a school.
In my first principalship, I wanted to build relationships and create a culture where we would celebrate our learning and our growth. So we instituted a tradition or ceremony of “tossing dogs”.In Batavia, we are all Bulldogs so I thought that would be an appropriate stuffed animal to toss. At every staff meeting teachers could take a small stuffed animal and publicly recognize another staff member and thank them for something they did for another teacher or a student and toss a stuffed dog to them. If a staff member received the dog they were able to keep them. It was really cool to walk into a teacher’s room or a specialist’s office and see a small collection of dogs sitting on a shelf or a desk.
I also dedicated one staff meeting towards the end of the year where teams would get up and share a celebration from the school year. The only rule I had was that they couldn’t do a dry and boring PowerPoint. Here is an example of the fourth grade team and their journey of implementing guided math. Teams needed to be creative in the way the wanted to celebrate their journey and growth.
The final tradition I started took place at the end of the school year where we would spend time together as a staff honoring those members who were moving schools, retiring, etc… and then we would do something to recognize and celebrate each other. The first year each person had a piece of construction paper mounted to cardstock that went over their head and hung on their back with a piece of yarn.
Every staff member had a pen and we spent 15 minutes walking around writing personal notes on each other’s paper. It was really great to provide meaningful comments to a teacher and to look around the room to see the same thing being repeated dozens of times.
Amabile, T. & Kramer, S. (2011). The progress principle: Using small wins to ignite joy, engagement, and creativity at work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Dufour, R. (2015). In praise of American educators and how they can become even better. Bloomington, IN: The Solution Tree Press.
Derek Oldfield and Paul Bailey and I were part of a Voxer book study reading Kids Deserve It. Although we were active in the book study group, the three of us often chatted in a separate voxer chat and the idea of spreading positivity throughout schools nationwide was inspired. We brainstormed and decided we would have a high five challenge, encouraging teachers, staff and principals to give out high fives as well as write letters and make phone calls home.
We promoted our challenge through Twitter using the hashtag #high5challenge. We were amazed at the responses, videos and pictures that we received from across the United States. Teachers were writing messages on student’s desks, writing positive notes on bracelets, dancing and high fiving in cafeterias! Looking through the hashtag every night simply brought joy to each of us.
To celebrate the educators we sent out #high5 #KidsMatter bracelets in hopes that although the two week challenge ended that the positivity would continue. Kids do matter, and celebrating them with such simple ways as high fives and notes home sure does go a long way!
Culture is built over time, through deliberately focusing on celebrations, whether big or small. Spread positivity, celebrate daily, and then bask in the warmth and joy that exudes from the environment.
We would love to hear how you have built a culture of celebrations, share with us in the comments or tag us on Twitter!