If we close our eyes and think about what traits are common in our relationships with our friends, most people would use some version of these words: trust, devotion, caring, common interests, laughter, love, passion, and the ability to drop everything and come to each others rescue at a moments notice. We spend more time at our jobs than we do with our families. This is fact.
Now think for a second how amazing it would be to turn our schools into a summer camp environment. No, not the bug juice, the awful hot afternoons, or the freezing instructional swim lessons first thing in the morning. Think about all of the life long friendships that were developed. I worked in a building like this once.
It was so incredible that people would arrive early and stay late for all activities willingly because everyone genuinely cared about the success of each other in the building. At lunch time it was a race to get into the teachers lounge to get a seat at one of the tables because for 40 minutes, it was constant laughter and enthusiasm. It was also a celebration of accomplishments and discussions about how to help each other and get our students to succeed more. If a school dance was posted, chaperone sign up would be filled in minutes. The typical number would be between 25-30 minimum. All accomplishments were celebrated daily. Weddings were attended by an entire staff because we truly wanted to be around each other.
This was not as a result of an innovative Principal or the best district Administration ever. This was a result of a group of teachers that refused to be beaten down by the daily stresses of the job. This culture was inclusive in every way. At every event you would find teachers, custodians, and secretarial staff together having incredible times and making memories for each other and our students. This was a school culture that survived multiple Principals. It was a culture ingrained in every single person that walked through the doors. From the minute you were hired, everyone throughout the day made sure to introduce themselves to you, tried to get to know you and then would give you the proverbial shirt off of their backs to make sure that you succeeded. The staff member that couldn’t succeed was the one who closed themselves off to the community. Parents and all school community members could feel it as they walked in and were always greeted with a smile and a helping hand.
As we start the second half of the school year, most people come back from their winter break excited and completely rejuvenated. For at least one day, work is a great place to come to. As we travel around our buildings, stories of travel, amazing books we’ve read, and tons of laughter can be heard vibrating off of the walls and throughout the hallways. I have learned throughout my 19 years in education that everything unfortunately has a way of evening itself out over time. Employees who are genuinely happy people will stay remain happy. Employees who complain will go back to finding something to complain about. The culture of a school building or district will go back to being what it was prior to a long layoff.
My question today is, how do we change that culture so that we can bottle up that infectious enthusiasm and positivity and keep it flowing all year long?
I have been known by many as a person who is happy and positive all of the time, sometimes to a fault. There are times recently that I have noticed myself going down the dreaded path of negativity and see myself struggling to push forward and turning my frown… upside down! I pride myself on seeing when others are struggling and giving them the extra pat on the back to get them motivated and know how much they are truly valued.
Employee value is the easiest way to change a culture in a building or a school district. Let’s get right to the heart of the problem. Regardless of position in the school, everyone feels that they bring value to the building. The problem is what happens day after day when you walk through the halls and the phrases: good job, great lesson, thank you for being here, you’re amazing, you’re special and many others are NEVER heard. Employees want to be valued. If you believe that getting paid is all the value employees need, you are sorely mistaken. I do not believe any one of us entered the education world with dreams that we would ever become a millionaire. As some of my amazing colleagues and members of my PLN will say often, it’s the lightbulb that goes off on top of our children’s heads that make everyday worth it. Although that may be the case, I want to add a second layer to that.
Someone needs to remind our our teachers, secretarial staff, custodians, and yes…. Even our administrators just how amazing they are. Think how far that could go in a building? People are attracted to the world of Twitter because of the positivity. Whether it is a chat or a post, people are having real discussions but most importantly reminded of how valuable they are in this world. Friendships are developed on common interests and positivity. Twitter reminds me of this every day. Some of my closest friends in education have been developed and cultivated in Twitter world. I am inspired daily with educators incredible ability to think outside of the box and change the world that we work in. Why can’t we cultivate this environment in our own buildings if we have millions of people already doing this every day online?
I think as administrators it is our duty to remind every one of our employees that they are valued. It is our job to turn our buildings and/ or districts into a place where every single employee genuinely wants to show up for work. Why can’t we develop a place in which the job of teaching never feels like a job! We all need to take some time out of our day and begin to cultivate relationships with each of our staff members. We HAVE to learn to take an interest in all of them and learn about their families, their hobbies, and what makes them feel appreciated.
Think about all of the positive impacts this can make immediately?
For one, staff members will know that their administrator genuinely cares and wants them to succeed. It is so important as an educator to know that I have the ability to take a risk and whether it works or falls flat, I am going to get a high five from my staff for trying something new and exciting that could possibly impact a student in a way that they will never forget. Second, think of the climate in the building when our staff members are out in hallways talking to each other about life and pumping each other up instead of tearing each other down. So often teachers either ignore each other or are just so busy to stop and notice all of the great things that their colleagues are doing around them.
As we begin 2019, regardless of our positions, we all need to look in the mirror and remind ourselves of all of the happiness that we can bring our fellow staff members by reminding them of how important and valued they are. When you go back to your building, start by giving someone a compliment and watch the look on their face. If you receive a thank you and a smile, you know you have done your job. Keep it going and be relentless with your positivity. It will spread through others and remind them why they come to work every day. It only takes one person to change a culture. Be that person. Be the highlight of someone’s day and change their world. To all of the educators that work their tails off everyday designing lessons for our children to change the world, thank you. you are appreciated! To all of the custodians that make sure our buildings are clean and a welcoming place for all of the staff and students, thank you… you are appreciated! To all of the secretaries who make every one of our lives easier by making sure our buildings run without issue, thank you and you are appreciate for it. To my fellow Administrators who do all of the things on a day in, day out basis that will never get noticed (you all know those things) thank you for being you and allowing our staff members and students to engage, take risks and live out their wildest dreams within our buildings.