March and April can be challenging times on a school campus. Just as the weather warms up and the kids start feeling squirrely, the adults have to look hard to see Spring Break up ahead, and even then it’s a bit like a small oasis in Lawrence of Arabia’s vast desert.
The season brings more than just exhaustion, Winter Break’s renewal dissipating with the cloudy weather. Mandatory non-renewal letters can wither new teachers’ morale (and don’t do much to make principals feel good either). Veterans can feel that stress of the long haul between breaks, and everyone is doing a bit of double duty as we begin to prepare for the upcoming school year while also keeping up with hurly-burly of the everyday present.
As a principal, I know that a big part of my job is keeping morale up, particularly in the tougher times of the year. It’s a mission I’m still learning how best to complete.
This year I had big plans to have my staff take photos of the inside of their refrigerators and make some sort of game out of guessing whose was whose. The photos I got were great. …and absolutely no one ever guessed one right. Ouch. After a bit I stopped sharing the pictures, hoping inspiration might hit me, and I’d be better able to parlay the fridge photos into a morale booster.
I’m still waiting for that lightning bolt of spirit.
March and April saw a few successes in the area of spirit boosting. Two wonderful teachers led our staff in a restorative circle, an experience I’d like to build into what we do throughout the year next year. Our ASB put on a Hawaiian themed Spirit Week, and both staff and students embraced the sense of play. Smiles abounded in the staff vs. student volleyball game at lunch, and at Spirit Day, when we all got an afternoon to play together.
All that was great, and still I feel like next year I want to do more to make spring a time when we’re focused on the great things around us, including us, rather than the stresses that sometimes sneak onto campus.
And the truth is that I don’t have the answer to raising morale, as if there really is one answer. I do know that next March I’ll bring more food to share, try a little improv, and (if I’m adventurous enough) sock golf.
Even as I do, I believe the best way to keep morale as high as it can be is to have a school culture where people care about each other, see the best in each other, and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Well, that and Spring Break!