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Some of Us Work Year-Round: Ideas to Appreciate School Employees Who Work in the Summer

Celebrating Your Teammates Who Work During the Summers

There's a big assumption out there that if you work in a school, you get summer's off.

As principals, we know that this is simply not the case. Some of the most important projects of the year happen during the months of June, July, and August. These projects are all thanks to the amazing women and men who serve at our schools when kids and teachers head out for summer break.

In my building, my summer dream team consists of my 11-month secretaries (like the Registrar and Office Manager), and of course, my stellar custodial team. On any given day, I'll also see my district's maintenance team and grounds crew working to keep our campuses clean, tidy, and a source of pride for our community.

Sure, some of us squeeze some much-deserved vacation time into our summers (me included). But there is no doubt that these teammates work really hard in the summer. Summer is a great time to honor these employees for the great role they play in our kids' education!

There's another group of teammates who give their time and expertise in the summer, too! Those are our summer program teachers: extended school year for those learners with special needs, summer school teachers, and bridge program teachers. To them, thanks is certainly also due.

What exactly gets done during the summer months?

Where to begin!?

In the main office, it's astounding how much tidying needs to be done from the previous year. Sending records to the next school, purging documents that no longer have to be kept on file, and simply unloading from the year's collection of stuff in the main office!

Our custodial teams are such heroes in many ways. From deep cleaning, to stripping and sealing floors, to moving furniture repeatedly, to painting ~ their to-do list is often huge! When I meet with my head-C in May to talk about summer goals, she is ambitious and excited! And I'm always amazed in September how they managed to get it all done...and more.

Our tech team works hard to inventory and repair the student chromebooks that have been in distribution all year. They clean, repair, replace, and inventory several thousands of devices, getting them ready for the next school year.

And of course, teammates who serve out of our district office (HR, Grounds, Maintenance) work tireless every day. They maintain grounds, facilities, move furniture, make repairs, and answer those many requests that us principals have.

Our summer-serving teammates are amazing. As a principal, I grow more appreciative of them every year.

Just as we celebrate teachers, librarians, and counselors during the school year, I like to celebrate my summer team when they're at their busiest.

Ideas for Celebrating School Employees Who Work in the Summer Months

Idea #1: Host a barbecue

One Friday in advance, I send a cute custom invitation to my summer teammates to announce our special barbecue.

I do this for a few reasons. One, I want them to be able to plan accordingly when it comes to lunch on that day, etc. Two, I really want my teammates to feel valued and special ~ this comes, in part, from feeling seen, noticed, and appreciated. I like them to know that I'm thinking and planning for them well in advance...not a last-minute plan the night before.

You can set this up however is best. I like to treat my team to a free meal, but everyone's different. Consider setting it up as a potluck if that's more your style. Otherwise, gathering the barbecue essentials is quick and easy.

Here's a sample invitation that I created using Canva. It literally took me 2 minutes using one of their cute Pro templates. (Click here to try the PRO version for free)

How do I make these cute graphics for nearly every event at my school? I use Canva PRO. You see, I buy a subscription to Canva PRO for my entire school every year and we get our money's worth out of it! Secretaries, Athletic Director, Music Director, teachers...Canva PRO is easy, intuitive, and has millions of ready-to-use templates and assets. Click here to get 30 days of Canva PRO for free and see what I mean.

In my Friday email, I highlight a few things and also include survey links if necessary (such as asking what people would prefer for Friday's barbecue including vegetarian options and dietary restrictions).

The sky is truly the limit for planning and hosting a summer barbecue. If funds allow, consider inviting your employee's families, too! Talk about appreciation!

Please post other ideas in the comments below, especially sharing what you do to celebrate your summer staff members!

Idea #2: Organize a volunteer work party

There is nothing more precious than the gift of time.

Our school has a thriving parent volunteer network. One of my favorite ways to celebrate our summer staff is to give them the gift of time - taking something important off their plate.

In May when I meet with my head C or office manager, I'll ask both if there are any projects that volunteers can do for them over the summer. Our ideas start building and we find at least a few projects that volunteers can support.

Then we use Signup Genius to get volunteers together. Summer is a little trickier with many people traveling and camping at this time. Nonetheless, a helpful work party is a great way to help your summer team feel appreciated.

Here are some summer project ideas to get you started:

  • Freshening up bulletin boards (for those Pinterest lovers out there!)

  • Prepping Staff Recognition gifts from your Principal Power Packs so you can easily roll them out each month

  • Decorating and craft projects, such as jazzing up the staff lounge or a student spaceShredding and organizing in the main office

  • Grounds work such as tidying the school garden or cleaning the flower patches

  • Library organization

  • Painting parties

  • Purging of old school stuff and storage space cleanup

One summer, a parent volunteer who is a hobby artist painted all of the doors in our girls bathroom with positive, inspiring messages that she'd found on Pinterest! The messages were pre-approved and very inspirational. The doors are still a huge hit.

There is no limit to what an inspired, helpful group of adults can do! Dream big, ask your teammates what would be helpful, and go for it.

Idea #3: Coffee runs and other goodies

What teammate doesn't like a pick-me-up now and then? I love to buy coffee and snacks for my teammates! I have my summer custodians' coffee orders saved in my phone; I try to treat them to coffee at least once a week.

Donuts, fruit-kabobs, fizzy water, coffee drinks ~ the sky is the limit on goodies that show we appreciate everyone's hard work.

At least once per summer, I like to swing by the District Office and deliver goodies to our teammates who don't work directly out of my school. These are shared with our Maintenance, Grounds, and HR teams.

I'll add a cute tag to the goodies, which are super easy to make in Canva Pro:

Idea #4: Celebrate on social media

If you use my Principal's Social Media Calendar, then you know I'm a huge fan of celebrating all teammates throughout the year. Built in throughout the summer are lots of posts to highlight what custodians, secretaries and others are working on.

Students, families, and staff follow our school's Instagram and Facebook pages. At least one time daily, I like to post to both platforms (the same post duplicated). Showing off the hard work of the summer crew helps to keep our school community connected. It shows our tax payers where their dollars go. And it serves as a way to celebrate and acknowledge their hard summer work.

The Open Door Principal YouTube Channel is packed with ideas for creating your own social media presence for your school. Check out this tutorial, one of many that are made just for school leaders:

Idea #5: Add a "Thank You" to Your Reader Board

Never underestimate the power of the school reader board!

Consider rotating your reader board "thank yous" throughout the summer, just as you do during the school year! Be sure to include secretaries, custodians, grounds crews, maintenance, and anyone else who is working hard in the summer.

One summer, our school was undergoing renovations from a recently-passed bond measure. We made sure to keep updates rolling on our reader board during construction, and to thank them for working so hard and fast to prepare for the fall's new school year.

Idea #6: Practical Gifts ~ School Gear, Water Bottles, and Travel Mugs

Another fun way to celebrate your school's summer employees is with special gifts that only they receive.

There's nothing as special as arriving to find a free gift on your desk, or to see the principal making their rounds with freebies - GOOD freebies!

Some ideas include:

  • Quality water bottles (one year we gave out these water bottles with our school's engraved logo)

  • School gear like t-shirts, polos, trucker hats, and hoodies

  • School logo socks

  • Lunch boxes

  • Travel mugs

Idea #7: Work Side-by-Side

When I was a new principal, my custodial crews were absolutely overwhelmed. We had two positions that remained vacant all summer. On top of that, school district boundary shifts made for more work than usual, as our custodial and maintenance crews were tasked with moving furniture from one school to another.

My VP and I spent a few days in "ready to work" mode doing whatever it took to get the job done.

We asked our head C if there was value in us helping ~ I certainly didn't want to be in the way, or create some sense that I didn't have confidence in them. We simply wanted to be helpful and knew that they were buried under a mountain of tasks and goals.

We worked to clear out closets that the custodial staff wanted to paint. We deep-cleaned under tables, chairs, and the staff lounge's usual culprits like the fridge and drawers. In short, we asked how we could help and set out to be of service.

Idea #8: Send Shout-Outs to Other Bosses

Sending an unexpected "thank you" is a great way to show your appreciation for hard-working summer employees at your school.

In our district, we call this "managing up" where we praise someone from another team directly to their supervisor.

For example, if I notice that our grounds team spent extra time and effort cleaning the flower beds and making our campus shine, I'll send an email to their boss, thanking them for their hard work. I always include the recipient on the email, unless I'm not 100% sure who did the work (those grounds folks can be stealthy!).

Just as we hope that our good work gets noticed, I like to think that others hope for the same. So many of our teammates work independently and with little supervision. These shout-out emails help shine a spotlight on the hard work done during the summer months at school.

Idea #9: Ice Cream Treats

It's hard to go wrong with cold, yummy treats in the summer time.

Consider buying delicious ice cream treats for your summer team, or even offering root beer floats ~ just because! Better yet, you can never go wrong with a DIY Ice Cream Sundae Party. It couldn't be simpler to implement.

Here's a starter shopping list:

  • Variety of sprinkles and toppings (nuts, crushed cookies, sauces like fudge, fresh fruit, candy - you name it!)

  • At least 3 types of ice cream or sorbet (consider a dairy-free option)

  • Maraschino cherries and whipped cream

  • Don't forget a few ice cream scoops

Idea #10: Dinner for their Families

We've all heard of countless variations of this one! Some principals buy a take-home pizza for every teammate (dinner on them, for their family). Others purchase a take-away meal from a local restaurant or caterer.

Once per summer, I like to provide a meal to save our teammates time and money. After all, summer is a great time to enjoy family, nice weather, and being together. Treating my teammates to a meal is a fun way to honor their time and promote my favorite leadership value, "Family first."

This is always a favorite treat!

Paying for these Recognitions

Every school is so different. Some of us has discretionary budgets that easily have room for activities like this!

Others of us have to get creative when it comes to funding events like a barbecue or meal for our employees.

Consider ~

  • Does your PTC have funds they'd be willing to donate to celebrate these incredible teammates?

  • Are there companies in your city who generously support schools year-round with donations or discounts?

  • Do you have "use it or lose it" money that must be spent by June 30th (which is the end of our school district's fiscal year)?

  • Might this be something to budget for at the start of the school year, because it's that important?

Other Ways to Celebrate and Recognize School Summer Staff

Finally, if you've visited the Open Door Principal Shop, you know that social media for principals is a passion! From monthly Power Packs with staff recognition and easy-to-post social media ideas, there are lots of great ways to keep staff morale and school culture high.

Last summer, we went a step further. We used Canva PRO (free here for 30 days) to create a personalized graphic that highlights each summer employee. It took me a few hours in the summer to get them done, but thanks to Canva Pro, it went really fast. (After the first one was done, I simply made a copy so I had a template.) Then I posted them 1-2 at a time during the summer.

Check out this example:

Feel free to include any information you like!

If it's easier and you're pressed for time, you can also create a graphic for each department. We have 10 summer teammates, so our graphic-making went pretty fast. If you have a larger school, it may be helpful to streamline and combine the graphics.

Thank you, Summer Time School Employees!

Principals ~ please share your other ideas for recognizing your school's Summer Staff in the comments below.