4 Ways to Build a Positive School Community for Staff

As teachers we spent much of our time building positive classroom communities so our students feel welcome...but what about the teachers in your building? Here are 4 ways to build a positive school Community for Staff...I know you will LOVE...with a capital L number 2!

As teachers we spent much of our time building positive classroom communities so our students feel welcome, connected and respected by their peers...but what about the teachers in your building? Many are so busy with teaching and focusing on how to support student outcomes that nurturing a positive school community for staff, where all members feel valued and respected for their ideas and involvement, is left by the wayside. I feel strongly that when a positive school community is in place, everyone benefits. If staff is motivated, then, in my opinion, it will have a positive effect on student achievement. Let's face it...if teachers feel included and respected, then they are happy teachers and happy teachers enjoy teaching!!! Am I right?  Let's hear a BIG...YES! Who doesn't want to feel included...does anyone like to be alone? Well...maybe when you have something that needs to be done...then you close your door, turn off the lights and crouch in a corner so everyone thinks you have left for the day...but you get the point!

So here are some ideas to promote a positive school community without breaking the bank or adding more work for staff...you want to hear "Oh Yes, that's a great idea!" Not..."Oh, NO, do we have to do that?"

1. Membership or Making Staff Feel a Part of the Whole:  At the start of the school year,  it might be a great idea to give staff something that will build community...perhaps a water bottle, school lanyard or teacher bag with a positive quote or school logo...I know a Louis Vuitton or Kate Spade would be a whole lot better, this small gesture makes a statement of community and membership because everyone in the school has the item chosen.  Another way to foster membership and a sense of community is to have a Spirit Day where all staff including the student body and administrators wear the school spirit colors...and maybe jeans? This could be school-wide or even district wide day. it would be a great idea for the first day of school and everyone including students feel the connection.

2. Influence and Have an Active say in Community Building Activities: How can this be done you ask? Committees, committees, committees for just about everything that goes on in the building. A school recently had a Veteran’s Day celebration and there was a committee for that. A STEM Day celebration... another committee and recently many schools are starting Twitter Committees because there is a new push for schools in districts to use Twitter.  Committees allow for teachers to be involved in the decision-making process and also give teachers an active say it what is going on within the group. All of these committees are voluntary and staff members should not  be “forced” to be on any committee. We all have enough to do and some have more than others on the "plate of life." I also feel that these committees could meet through social media on closed Facebook groups or group texts...I know many times my colleagues and I texted plans for various ideas and someone always took the lead...that would be me...and made it happen!  This allows you to choose what you want to be involved with and have a say in what you are interested. This is a great way for teachers to have a voice and influence within the school and YES...build community.
 This idea to dress up for the
100th Day of School was set up during a Snow Day through texting...Easy Peasy!

3. Reinforcement or Making others Feel Special and Important: (I LOVE this IDEA!)  My daughter's school has “Coop Cares”.  At the first faculty meeting of the school year, her principal introduced “Coop Cares” notes and encouraged all staff to write a least one note to someone thanking them for something they’ve done for us or write encouraging words to staff members to ensure support when in need or "just because"... "Just becauses" or the Warm and Fuzzy notes are the best notes to receive.  It makes you feel..well...special!  Paper is kept in the office to make it easy to write a quick note to a colleague.  This is one way to show positivity to colleagues and remind each other that even during the toughest of times, we are all in it together or yes...I do notice what you are doing.

I have known principals who write daily morning e-mails to give encouraging words or quotes to reinforce activities or celebrations happening within the school and...YES...some  have even handwritten thank you notes to staff after a difficult IEP meeting or at the end of the year...to me that says it all...your hard work is appreciated!  These forms of community building can keep teachers going in a positive direction because they know they have a strong team working with them and for them...GO TEAM!!

4. Opportunities to Connect other than Professional Development, Professional Learning Communities (PLC) or Weekly Team Meetings:
It is also important for teachers and staff to interact socially. After all...at times...you spend more time with the people you work with than your family. An easy idea that many schools do, to promote support and emotional connections with staff, is each month a grade level team hosts a breakfast or lunch in the faculty room. It is a great way for teachers to relax and interact with each other. However, when these are during school hours, it can be a bit rushed, but it is a great way to build community even if it is just for 30 minutes!!

Another idea might be a“Secret Snowman”. This is a fun way to celebrate the holidays. Each person is assigned another person in the building. They leave them little gifts throughout the holiday weeks and then at the end there is a holiday party to reveal the “Secret Snowman” friend. In my district we did this monthly throughout the school year and had the reveal at the end of the year...it was easy and fun!

Have a Bowling Night for your "school family", some Skiing Weekends (We used to do this and it was fun with a capital F), Painting with a Twist (You know where y'all get together...those who have never painted in their lives and try to paint a picture that looks half decent to hang or toss in the trash...mine went in the trash even though my grandson thought it was the best painting he ever saw...he is trained well..., Walk for a Cause, Get togethers to watch the Rose Ceremony for the Bachelor...(yes we did this), School Family Picnics or Amusement Park get togethers, swimming parties, hikes, before and after school Yoga or Zumba classes (we did this, too)...any fun activity to build community with your colleagues will work. You just need someone or some group to take the lead and get it going!
Light the Night Walk for Leukemia....staff, family, friends and even babies came to walk!!!
 These are just a few ways to build community, establish an emotional connection with your colleagues and encourage a positive school environment where everyone is a valued member of your school.  So what are you waiting for?  Let's get started and be sure to let me know what your school does to build community among staff members!