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6 Summer Ideas for Principal Time Savers to Boost Morale Year-Round

Recharging and Preparing in the Summer

Although much of my summer will be spent recharging my batteries, it seems as though I'm often thinking about leadership. Summer is often packed with road trips, relaxation, and that precious gift that we all long for: the gift of time. During those long drives, late nights, and lazy weekdays, many of us can't help but be inspired about how to improve our schools.

Here are six tried-and-true ideas for school administrators and principals to get a running head-start on staff morale and school culture during the summer.

Idea #1: Recharge and unplug from work. Seriously.

If I learned anything from being an educator and leader during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be this: I lose my effectiveness as a leader when my tank is empty and I'm running on fumes.

I know I'm not alone. Many years ago, a teacher colleague of mine introduced me to Post Secret. Post Secret in a raw, authentic (albeit NSFW at times) website where people's real secrets are shared with the world. (Here's a great Q&A with the founder of PostSecret, Frank Warren, to learn more about the project.)

In the fall of 2020, the following Post Secret appeared across several social media platforms:

This resonated loudly across the education sphere.

An overwhelming number of principals replied on Twitter and Facebook ~ some of whom entirely related and appreciated someone saying the words out loud. Others replied as cheerleaders and encouragers for each other.

I've watched educators reach physical and emotional breaking points, not just during the pandemic, but in more typical school years.

Self-care is not a buzz word; it's the difference between vitality and illness for some of us.

Please take time to genuinely unplug from work this summer. Take a day trip. Take TWO! Have lunch with a friend. Rent that VRBO for a long weekend. Picnic. Camp. Hike. Sleep. Snuggle. Recharge.

If you're looking for school-year ideas for self-care, consider some of these ideas for leader well-being.

Idea #2: Schedule your school's fun now

Once you've taken that much-deserved mental and emotional break from school and are ready to jump into some small summer tasks, start with the bucket-filling fun stuff. Take time now to think about how you'll infuse breaks and fun into your school year, and your personal life.

We all know the feeling - looking at the clock or calendar and wondering, "Where did the time go?!" No matter how many principal time savers we have, time flies in our profession.

I can recall several years, as a teacher and as an administrator, where I set wildly important goals and intentions for myself, my classroom, and for my school.

Then POOF.

It's March and we're in the home stretch - a fast-track sprint to the end of the school year. There is no time to add that great idea into the year because...well...there's no time.

One more thing will feel like "one more thing" for my teachers and staff, which is the last thing anyone needs when we're tired.

Instead, summer is a great time to schedule the fun we must have as a school staff. Here are some ideas to hopefully inspire you:

- Look ahead. This Principal's Social Media Calendar has all the *big dates* mapped out (Teacher Appreciation Week, Heritage Months, Custodian Appreciation Day, etc.) so you don't forget anyone.

- Aim for at least one fun thing per month. I know, that may seem like a lot. Especially if the activities are forced fun and turn out not being a very big hit. No one enjoys forced fun, so keep your definition of fun simple, attainable, and practical.

- Plan a variety of activities. A great place to start (as simple as it may sound) is by incorporating activities that appeal to your staff's different interests.

Throughout my years as an educator, I've seen a ton of great ideas in all of our schools! For example:

- Kinesthetic: Fun or competitive games of volleyball, basketball, corn hole, a walk to a nearby location, bring in a dance instructor to choreograph a dance to show your students, a river float or family-friendly picnic with lawn games, etc.

These are simple to add. Announce a pick-up game of HORSE at the start of the month; add it to your staff calendar. Enlist the help of a secretary to help you make sure these are on the calendars, then pre-send/schedule the reminder email so there's nothing left to do.

Be sure to attend, yourself! It's great for educators to see that their principal is also up for some fun and values "unplugging."

- Social: Sometimes the best way to build staff morale is to give our teammates time to get to know each other outside of the work. Teams who are more comfortable with each other seem to be more collaborative and innovative.

- Creative: This is always a battery-filler among staff. Consider activities like:

- Doing a project that your students get to do in fine art class (like pottery, painting, pastels, etc.)

- Host a painting party with an outside instructor

- Musical jam sessions with levels ~ some or no experience required.

- Make a video, such as a lip sync, a PSA, or a TikTok that students will love.

- Consider what talents your team has ~ is there a teammate who would be passionate about leading a fun creative project, big or small?

Regardless of what you choose for adding joy, it's important to think about these early so they don't become an added burden for you (or your team) later.

Idea #3: Schedule YOUR fun

During airplane safety reminders at the start of a flight, Flight Attendants always remind us - "Put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting other passengers." The same is a great rule when it comes to the self-care of educational leaders.

As a principal, it is easy to get drained by serving the limitless needs of others: students, teachers, facilities, the district and your bosses, families in need.

In the summer, I always schedule my vacations and fun for the school year. If I don't, I find myself "stay-cationing" every break. This leaves me feeling like I haven't taken a break at all.

VRBO, Air BNB, a cruise - whatever you fancy - book it now. Your pocketbook may not like it, but your future self (and your school!) will appreciate your full batteries later.

Idea #4: Get your printing done now

There are lots of amazing tools available to spread good vibes at school, provide powerful instructional coaching, recognize students, and build a positive culture. The problem is, it takes planning and prep to ensure those tools are ready to use in a pinch.

Here are some FREE positive feedback slips for you to instantly download now. Print a stack of them so they're ready to use!

If you're looking for more variety, consider downloading a monthly Principal Power Pack. Every month includes a new Positive Feedback slip for students, and a simple morale-booster PDF for staff.

Whatever you like to use to get your job done, consider getting those tools printed and prepped this summer. It's a principal time saver. When days get busy, I am always thankful that I did!

Idea #5: Envision Who Can Help with Fun This Year

We're all busy - from our "many-hat-wearing" front office team, to teachers, to classified staff. That's why it's great to incorporate a group of people to help with morale boosters. Many of you already have groups like a Sunshine Committee - which is awesome!

When I started at my recent school, there was no "Sunshine Committee." The principal, VP, and Dean of Students carried the load. Though that model worked for them, I created committees to provide leadership opportunities for many more people and share the load of many important jobs in our school. Committees included Master Scheduling, Literacy, and Sunshine. Each staff member got to choose which committee was important to them. Believe it or not, they were fairly balanced in numbers! Once per month, committees met with their own agendas (sometimes influenced by suggestions from Leadership). Their work was evident all year.

Our Sunshine Committee was comprised of teachers, paraprofessionals, the Student Leadership teacher, secretaries, and the Dean. Between them, they made such a huge difference in our school! They celebrated all staff members' birthdays, spearheaded greeting cards when someone had a death in their family or lost a pet, and helped everyone feel "seen."

You don't have to do it alone! Think now about how you can enlist some help from your incredible team.

Idea #6: Ready the Treats!

My first year as principal, I was fortunate to have a veteran principal who took me under her wing. Over dinner one night, she shared with me a few of her top strategies to keep things light and fun, while also focusing on the important work of instruction.

She shared with me that the Avery 1x3" labels fit *perfectly* on a snack size candy bar. She designed her images with school pride and positive messages. (I recommend using Canva to do this. It's free.)

Label ideas:

- Photo of your school logo

- School slogans (ex. Jaguar Pride!)

- Quotations that inspire (here are 200 to start)

Every summer, she has her secretary team print her hundreds of these labels and affix them to snack-size candy bars. She keeps them in her office so that, anytime she wants to share a treat with a class or at a meeting, they are ready to go!

Another treat idea is to print cute signs to affix to a special monthly treat for staff. Simply print them, cut them, and attach a treat. I have a student helper place these in staff mailboxes or deliver them as a surprise.

Here are some examples, available in these Monthly Power Packs:

A final treat idea (in the summer) is to reach out to local groups and businesses to see if they'd like to "adopt" your school for an upcoming event. PTA, Boosters - even local retailers love to celebrate educators.

Our local grocery store loves to provide pastries to schools on occasion; it's a tax write-off for them. I have built a great relationship with their manager and each year, they agree to treat us once per year to several dozen pastries.

Summer is a great time to reach out to those companies and groups and get them thinking about helping later.

Enjoy Your Summer!

Besides enjoying some rest and relaxation in the summer, what do you do to save yourself time during the year? Please share your best tips in the Comments below.

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