6 Tips to Engage Your Staff During Summer

June 2013, Volume 36, Issue 10

Even before the school year closes, most principals already have a long list of summer tasks to prepare for next year. Don’t forget to add this item to your list: engaging your staff members, new and returning.

“You are going to want to have fun, motivating, invigorating activities that help the staff members make the transition from summer to the school year,” writes Diane Hodges in Season It With Fun, a guide for staff engagement.

1. Touch Base with Summer Messages

Check in with staff members via email. Kick off the summer with a relaxation message, passing along Edutopia’s Summer Rejuvenation Guide for teachers, for example. Over the course of the summer, send information to help staff members gear up for the school year. Let staff know about any changes taking place at the district, and pass along bios of new staff members so that returning staff can welcome them on day one. Select a few issues of Report to Parents to pass along to teachers for their back-to-school packets to families.

2. Extend a Special Welcome to New Staff Members

Besides distributing a welcome packet and giving them a tour, plan an event to celebrate new staffers. Hold an “Eat and Greet” session with bagels or pizza to introduce new staff members to the rest of your team. If you don’t already have a mentoring system in place, assign each new staff member a mentor or “buddy teacher” for guidance. Encourage mentors to touch base with their mentee before the school year starts.

3. Host a Planning Retreat

Rally your troops for a planning session over the summer. Some retreat centers may even offer a discount for education groups.

“Going to an off-site location reduces distractions and focuses staff members’ attention on the year ahead,” writes Hodges.

Prepare for the retreat by sending a survey to staff members. Questions can include:

  • “This year, I’m most excited about…”
  • “If I could change one thing about my job, it would be…”
  • “Feedback that’s most helpful for me is…”
  • “For us to work well as a team, we should…”

Discuss with your staff conclusions from the survey. Explore SMART goals and organize goal-setting sessions with your entire staff and with grade-level or subject teams. Try inviting a motivational speaker to boost staff members’ spirits, and make sure to schedule team-building activities.

Make staff appreciation a key part of your retreat brainstorming. Recruit staff members for a social committee, and collect ideas for activities to undertake over the school year, from setting up a Teacher of the Month program to organizing monthly staff lunches.

4. Brainstorm a Theme for the Year

Ask staff members, either via email or at your planning retreat, to help you select an entertaining, inspiring theme for the next year. A few ideas:

Make It Happen

Mission Possible

Together We Can

From Good to Great

The Journey Begins With Us

Taking It Up a Notch

TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More

Organize school kick-off activities around the theme. For instance, Sleepy Hollow Elementary in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois, used a golf theme one year. The principal sent welcome letters on golf-themed paper that announced that staff was “teeing up” for a good school year. Staff members were encouraged to wear golf attire on the first day, and an in-school golf game was part of back-to-school in-service.

5. Assemble “Me Kits” or Survival Kit

“Me Kits” are collections of helpful items that can help teachers in a pinch. Items might include:

  • a sewing kit,
  • safety pins,
  • cough drops,
  • Band-aids,
  • greeting cards,
  • mouthwash, or
  • snacks.

Hand these out at your planning retreat, or during staff in-service before schools starts.

6. Make Staff “Back to School” Days Fun

Since most staff members return to school early to set up their rooms anyway, host a casual, voluntary Back to School Day. Send staff an email announcing that if they want to work in their rooms, food and drinks will be available. Distribute gift bags with snacks, coupons, school lanyards, or supplies such as pens or clipboards. Recruit community volunteers to assist teachers as helpers to move boxes or unload materials.

For more ideas on staff engagement throughout the year, pick up a copy of Season It With Fun. The National Principals Resource Center features several other titles on teacher recognition, including 7 Secrets of Motivating & Inspiring Your Team, Day-2-Day, and Motivating and Inspiring Teachers.

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