How to start the school year on a happy note

The author of "10 ways we made our school happier" is back to describe how she creates a climate where educators are free to be creative and students are inspired to achieve

I have a hot pink sign that’s right beside my computer that says, “If you want people to embrace your vision, you must continue your pursuit of them.” As a school leader, my job is to pursue every teacher in this building, to help connect them to their peers and their students, and to help them find their passions.

You might call it “giving them ownership of their work,” but I call it “loving on my teachers.” I firmly believe that if you connect with their hearts, their minds will follow. Part of loving on your teachers is coming up with little routines or catchphrases that bind us together. Our school motto is “Go be awesome,” so we end every faculty meeting with a group chant: “One, two, three—go be awesome!” Is it a little bit silly? Sure. Does it help us connect and teach better? I believe it does.

How to be happy with purpose
One of the ways we give teachers ownership of what we do as a school is through our different types of leadership teams. We intentionally connect them to Curriculum Leadership, Grade-Level Leadership, and Positive Learning Environment (PLE) Leadership teams. This triad is much like a three-legged stool: Together they stand strong and will lead their grade levels or areas through a successful year. Our PLE Leadership team began the year by using the 7 Mindsets portal to help us choose what aspects of social-emotional learning (SEL) we’re going to focus on each month. The grade-level leaders are then in charge of taking those lessons back to their grade-level teams and growing leaders through the same mindset conversations.

Members of each team are selected on how passionate they are about either curriculum, leadership, or culture, but in a couple of grade levels I asked teachers to join the team because I knew that they needed a leadership opportunity. For example, we have a music teacher who does amazing productions but wasn’t on any committees. I think she felt a little bit lost, but now she’s leading her grade level, she’s connecting with other grade levels, and she’s helping other teachers to see that the first thing that makes a school work is relationships.

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