Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebration: The Accelerator of Learning

Celebration is the fuel in your school, and the more fuel that you have, the further your organization can go. If you think about school improvement, it is a big bus on a long journey, and if we never stop by the gas station to fill up, the bus won't get that far.  Teachers and students need to be motivated to accelerate in their growth, and that can only happen when we remember to celebrate continuously. 

In this post, I will share my ideas on how we leaders must praise what we preach, promote our values, and acknowledge effort and commitment to learning. Whether it is a student who just passed a big test, or the secretary who makes everybody's job easier, school improvement will only accelerate when we celebrate. 

14 Ways to Accelerate Learning through Celebration.  

Virtual Celebrations

Instagram - Benjamin Gilpin has one of the best Instagram accounts for celebration. Every day he is sharing pics of how fun his school is and how much the kids are learning. 

Twitter - My school district's Twitter account (@tatumisd) is constantly celebrating students and staff accomplishments that are academic or athletic.  Our district and campus leaders are celebrating any event where our kids are growing or our staff are going above and beyond. 

Blog - Every week in my school blog, I make sure that I celebrate our staff and students with pictures and stories of our great educators who are making great and innovative things happen in the classroom. 

Face to Face Celebrations

Now virtual celebrations are great and everybody in your community can see them instantly, but people also need to feel appreciation through face to face contact.  Here are some ideas. 

Handshake & a Smile
Nothing is more meaningful and more personal than looking someone in the eyes, shaking their hand and thanking them for the great things that they're doing.  Make a point to do this every week.

Handwritten Note
The art of writing a handwritten note is becoming a lost art form. That is why it is a great tool to celebrate hardworking people. Receiving a handwritten note of appreciation fills the soul. 

Sonic Drink
Surprising your staff  individually or collectively with a drink from Sonic or your favorite fast food restaurant is a great way to celebrate. To expedite the process, you send out a Google form to get everyone's order and then you can turn the responses into individual stickers via a mail merge.   This helps you get the order fast and helps the restaurant get everyone's orders correct.

Google Form Questions

  • Name
  • Drink Order
  • Room Number (helpful for large faculties)

Group Celebrations

If you don't have the time, and you want to celebrate the work of the entire school, group celebrations are a must. 

Staff Incentives 

Celebration Room 
Todd Nesloney shared a post about his celebration room at his school. (Click here). He has a dedicated space where every person can be recognized and encouraged by every person in the school.

After School Party
At your next faculty meeting, surprise your staff with a faculty party. You can still have the meeting but having a party will make a huge difference. 

Random Jeans Day
This is a huge deal in many schools. Given at just the right time when they least expect it will put a pep in their step.   Given too much, it will lose its effectiveness.

Student Incentives

Celebration is best for kids when it is earned. As a teacher or principal, students need is to set goals for them and provide a celebration for when they reach the goal. Here are a few examples that you can use. 

Dance Party
This is a great way to celebrate elementary to middle school age kids who have displayed excellent behavior or hard work in learning for a month or 6 week grading period. Set a goal, and the kids look forward to the punching their ticket to dance party when properly promoted. 

Dodgeball with the Principal
What kid (elementary to high school) doesn't want to pelt the principal with a dodgeball?  So use great behavior or academics as the goal to play with the principal.  If you don't like dodgeball, kickball works just as effectively.

Surprise Bell  
To celebrate good attendance at the elementary and middle school, I had a surprise bell incentive and the kids never knew when it was coming. The bell would ring and we would check attendance. The classes with the best attendance for the day received treats, extra recess or some other incentive.  Celebrate attendance.  After all, it will motivate them to make being at school a priority.

Extra Minute in Passing Period
To promote school-wide attendance at the high school, I had a standing daily goal of 98% daily attendance. For any day that the goal was reached, students had an extra minute added to their passing periods on the next day.

Teacher Developed Class Incentives
In a school where teachers are creating celebrations for student learning, kids are super focused.  When teachers want to create an incentive for their class, encourage and support it.  It will accelerate the learning in that classroom.

What gets Celebrated gets Accelerated

Nothing gets people more involved and engaged in working and learning than acknowledgement and appreciation. Celebration is the best way to acknowledge hardwork and show appreciation for a job well done. Some detractors would say, "well they should do a good job because they're expected to."  That is true; however, how much better would kids and adults do if they worked in a culture that honors achievement and celebrates success at the organizational level all the way down to the individual level?

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