George Lucas Educational Foundation
School Culture

Preparing for Quick Wins During the First Week of School

Ten ways that educators can celebrate the accomplishments of both teachers and students.

August 4, 2017

Most educators are excited about the first week of school, but soon thereafter, schools may lose momentum. Having multiple competing priorities matched with brand new students can often lead to a chaotic culture in which teachers (and students) burn out quickly. Through CT3, I work with educators across the country and one of the most common questions I get is how to avoid this burnout. One of the most important things that school leaders can do over the summer to prepare for this is to plan for quick celebrations to build morale and energy in your school building right off the bat! Here are 10 ideas I share with them to build pride in their community and create quick wins during the opening of the school year:

  1. Have every teacher submit a ‘Student of the Week’ at the end of the first week of school. Read those names over the PA system, in the cafeteria, across your school’s video system, etc.
  2. Recognize every teacher in the building for one positive thing during the first week of school, at an end-of-week staff meeting, or through an all-staff email. Have a staff social at the end of the first Friday to appreciate teachers and shout each other out. People love being cared and provided for!
  3. During the first week of school, select five students to shout out teachers that they had a great interaction with. Have these students speak out during morning announcements or write their shout-outs on posters and post outside of that teacher’s classroom. Be sure to also post on social media if your school has a Facebook page or Twitter handle!
  4. Celebrate attendance in some capacity during the first week of school. Be intentional about celebrating which classes have perfect attendance or meet the percentage goal for attendance. Take time now before school starts to plan and communicate attendance-related incentives!
  5. Have each teacher make a positive phone call or text home about each student in their class during the first week of school. Similarly, give five blank postcards to every staff member to complete for one student per day filled with positive comments, welcome messages, etc. Send to families at the end of the week!
  6. Have the oldest grade at your school provide the youngest grade with motivation such as notes of encouragement or clapping as they walk through the hallways to their classroom for the first time.
  7. Celebrate data wins during the first week of school and communicate progress towards your goals such as number of teachers meeting the instructional expectations for a certain subject, or number of reading logs/ summer homework turned in.
  8. For schools of a manageable size, have one piece of student work posted on the hallway walls from every student by the end of the first week of school.
  9. Consider a Spirit Day on the first Friday of the school week where every child wears school colors. The class with the most school colors wins breakfast with the principal/school leaders (or a reward of your choice). Each class should take a photo together and these should be posted on the school’s website and/or social media page.
  10. Hold a beginning of the school year Pep Rally to celebrate goals and gains from testing from the previous year (i.e. students that performed high on spring testing, growth charts that celebrate every kid that grew, etc.) and if you have a marching band, consider having them play through the school hallways with a varsity athlete/captain of each sports team. Or, during the first home sporting event, throw a barbecue for your students and staff.

Whether you celebrate each day of the first week of school or prepare intentionally for the end of the first week, effective school leaders plan out how to boost morale and create a positive school culture from the beginning to set the students and staff up for success throughout the school year. If you have more ideas, please comment below to share with your fellow educators!

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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