5 Easy Ways for APs to Strengthen Bonds and Boost Morale

Use these team-building tips to create a culture of trust, respect, and support in your school.

The essential bridge between administrators and staff, assistant principals (APs) are in the middle of everything. So whether it’s in service to a change initiative or making the school day run more smoothly, APs are responsible for getting teachers and other staffers on board and engaged.

Keeping the “morale meter” high is a big part of maintaining strong teams and providing students with the resources and support they need. “Team-building is not just a one-time event, but a sustained commitment to connecting people to a common goal and to each other,” says Sean Glaze, author, leadership expert, teacher, and coach.

Here are five expert tips for staff and teacher team building:

1. Pre-Meeting Prompts

Glaze recommends administrators and teachers conduct pre-meeting exercises before jumping into content: First, ask each member of the team, “What can we celebrate?” to start things off on a positive note. Then, provide the opportunity for each member of the group to share something personal to further build connections. Sharing prompts might include questions such as, “What is your most underused strength?” or “What is the best advice you have ever received?”

2. Fun and Games

Simple exercises can help strengthen team bonds. When you get staff in a circle, have each share something they appreciate about the person sitting to the left or right. Another easy suggestion? Have each person write a little-known fact about themselves on a sticky note or an index card. Collect and distribute the facts and have participants figure out whose fact is whose.

3. Sharing Struggles

This exercise centers on shared challenges and collaborative solutions. Have a staffer describe a recent challenge or ask a starter question such as “Who has trouble with parent communication?” Then, invite others who can relate to “get on the struggle bus” by raising their hands before opening discussion up to the team for suggestions on how to address the challenge. Addressing struggles as a group is a great way to forge solutions and team bonds.

4. (Handwritten) Words of Appreciation

Boosting team spirit is more than just togetherness and collaboration. A great way to raise morale across the board is to make it personal with handwritten thank-you notes to teachers. It can be a note recognizing a specific accomplishment or just general words of support and optimism. If teachers trust you, they will not only perform their best, but they’ll also come to you when faced with challenges.

5. Showing Support

The most important job administrators have is to support their teachers in order to create a positive learning community for students, says teacher and trainer Mike Kaechele. Be as intentional about making connections as you are about the curriculum, school improvement, and test scores. The decisions you make will go over more smoothly when you’ve created a culture of trust, respect, and support.

Belinda Lichty Clarke is director of alumni engagement at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a freelance writer based in Evanston, Illinois.