In a time when teachers and staff are expected to do SO much, burnout is on the rise, and it may be more difficult to keep staff morale up. It’s been asked time and again: “How are you supporting teachers and staff at your school?” “I am really worried about staff morale, they are so burned out.” “Any ideas for self-care for teachers? They are doing the job of 10 people!” If you are looking for ways to support teachers and staff, there are so many great ideas out there. I have compiled an extensive, varied list and am so excited to share it with you! However, it’s important to remember that although our position is about supporting students, teachers, and staff, it’s not something you need to or should be doing alone. So before I share that list, there are a few things I’d like you to consider first.
Before You Begin…
- Are you trying to do too much yourself? Remember that administration supports staff too. They may have some ideas for boosting morale or self-care that you aren’t aware of. Or have already started planning for. Make sure you are on the same page and not doing double the work!
- Have you put on your own mask first? You know the idea. When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant explains that you can’t take care of others if you don’t care for yourself first. Make sure you are “putting on your own mask” or taking care of yourself first before others. This will also help YOU avoid burnout. I can’t stress this point enough!!
- If you try to support them or boost morale and it doesn’t work, you didn’t fail. It’s not a reflection of you. Trying to change the dynamics or attitude of a group of people is not something you can just magically change on your own. Maybe it will help, or maybe it will actually work, but everyone has their own responsibility to change their habits or mindset
Ideas For Supporting Teachers and Staff
Now that you have considered those things, let’s talk about supporting your staff. There are many ways you can support teachers and staff, even without a budget. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and what you choose will probably depend on where you think the staff is mentally. Have things just been off recently? Maybe there were changes in your district and now you need to rebuild community. Have things been toxic or negative for a long time? Did something tough happen and everyone just needs a pick-me-up? Understanding where your staff is at could help you determine how to support them best. And again, consider consulting with your administration. Some of the issues I mentioned are bigger than what you can help with and may need to be handled by someone in more of a leadership role. Below are 16 ideas for supporting teachers and staff.
1. Create a virtual calm corner for staff. I created 3 large virtual calm corners for different grade levels in my district and broke them down here. These calm corners are for students, but there are many ideas that could work for staff too!
2. Hand out something small or tangible with a note. I made these last year for our first week back to school
3. Challenge them to complete a self-care bingo with coupons. These are great to hand out before a holiday break. It’s a perfect time to recharge and an opportunity for you to give suggestions on how they can
4. Set up a self-care corner in the lounge. There are so many different ways to do this. Keep it simple by posting positive affirmations or tips for practicing self-care. Or take things a step further, by including items like bubble-wrap, a coffee/tea station, energizing or healthy snacks, coloring pages, chocolate, pieces of paper with a drop of essential oil to smell, stress balls, etc. Another idea could be attaching a large banner or coloring page to a bulletin board for staff to color collectively
5. Put together a treat or coffee cart. This is different than a corner in the lounge as you would go around to each classroom and take orders. It can even be used as an opportunity for students to get involved as well, like a Life Skills classroom or students seeking a leadership role!
6. Secret gifting. The idea behind this is similar to secret Santa. Have staff fill out a survey of their interests and vote on a universal budget. Randomly give each staff member someone else they will be gifting for. Each day of the week a gift of some kind should be delivered with a clue about who it’s from. On Friday the secret gifter will deliver their final gift and reveal who they are
A similar idea my school tried was “I’ve been penned.” A staff member would receive 2 posters that say “I’ve been penned” on their desk or in their mailbox. One poster would be blank and the other would be colored in, along with a set of pens. They are to tape the colored poster to their door to show they had been penned and make a copy of the blank poster. Both posters will go to a staff member of their choosing, making sure to color one first, along with a set of pens they bought. This would continue until everyone has been “penned.” Another way to do this is with mugs (“I’ve been mugged”)
8. Plan outings for after school
9. Set up a team-building activity to try during an institute or staff meeting. These don’t have to be cheesy, and actually do build community. Last year my principal set up a scavenger hunt around the school. The hunt included fun facts about each person and you had to guess which went with who
10. Create mini gratitude/self-care/growth mindset challenges and send one out each week
11. Send out a weekly newsletter with tips or motivators
12. Host yoga or relaxation exercises after school
13. Run an in-service about self-care and burnout
14. Lead restorative circles
15. Help organize themed potlucks each month. This is always a highlight in our district and we call them birthday luncheons. They are meant to celebrate staff birthdays for that month but they are really more than that. Everyone signs up for 2 lunches each year, then decides on a theme with their group. Each contributes something such as a main dish, side, utensils, drinks, dessert, etc. Some of the themes we have done include a soup lunch with different soups, taco bar, breakfast for lunch, baked potato bar, etc. Our staff even decorates and covers the tables with tablecloths to make it extra special. Your role in this can simply be introducing the idea, compiling a list of theme suggestions (trust me, it’s helpful!), and posting the sign-up in the lounge
16. Lastly, just be there to listen. It sounds simple, but can make such a difference
Supporting teachers and staff doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or expensive. I hope you were able to find at least one idea that could work for you! Have you found other ways of supporting teachers and staff other than what I listed? I would love to hear about them in the comments!