Kids deserve our best, they deserve opportunity, equity, passion, and caring. When they succeed, they deserve to celebrate that success in some way and recognize what they have achieved. But, what about the rest of us? Guess what? We should also be celebrating our successes, taking stock in our progress, and appreciating what we have accomplished to date.
I see this as a crucial component to any healthy, vibrant school culture. Celebrating and finding joy in the successes of students, teachers, the school, or the community should be ingrained into the personality of the school. When it is not, negativity will follow and spread.
In these past two years I have seen what I can only describe as a snowball effect of cultural negativity. What started with just a few energy vampires (a term I have heard many times but the earliest use I found here), draining and taking from others the positive forces within our school. Over time their numbers grew. Given the variety of challenging and overwhelmingly negative circumstances many people were facing, negativity was a natural state. How then do we fight it? I would say we fight negativity with overwhelming, unapologetic positivity. We combat the negative spreading by frequently looking at our accomplishments and finding joy as a community.
On the final day of school we have a slideshow. All of our students PreK-8th Grade gather together in our All Purpose Room to watch pictures of them throughout the year. In my first few years this was always a wonderful moment, but in recent years it has lacked the celebratory vibe of a community appreciating all the ways in which it has grown. In response, I decided with our student council that we would take charge of the slideshow. They took pictures throughout the year, we had thousands from which to choose! Ultimately with some help, we cut down the slideshow to about sixteen minutes of shots that spanned the moment students arrived until the next to last day. I had the kids select music with a few simple directives:
1. This is a celebration
2. I want songs all of the kids will know
3. I will be screening them, don’t pick anything that will get me in trouble!
That morning came after one of the more stress filled, negative days I can remember as an educator. (While I don’t see any value in airing the laundry, I will say that the next to last day of school was filled with epic levels of anxiety and drama for most of the staff.) The kids piled into the APR as always, many of whom were expecting another long, relatively uneventful awards ceremony and slideshow. Instead, they got a five minute end of year newscast that my news anchors were so excited to create followed by fifteen minutes of positive vibes filling the room. All 160+ kids sang, oohed, ahhed, swayed, and clapped along with the staff. It was the first time I can remember where no-one had a cynical remark, no-one disparaged the work of others, and everyone generally just seemed happy. I am not saying that fifteen minutes of joy undoes the two years of negativity that had been building, but it certainly was a start. Whether that community be within a classroom, as students, as staff members, or the school community as a whole, periodic genuine celebrations are a sign of quality culture.
But we have nothing to celebrate here!!!
Of course you do. As Kid President says, “If you don’t have something nice to say, you aren’t trying hard enough.” Simply put, there are always reasons to celebrate. Whether they be minor successes of a student, making progress on a project, completing some task that had previously eluded you, finding a reason to appreciate what you have achieved and building positive momentum for the next step should never be passed upon. I have learned from two years of growing negativity and one day of beautiful, positive celebration, that we cannot wait until the year ends to look back and smile. We must frequently appreciate the amazing things happening in our buildings each day, as only then will we truly build the positive momentum needed to be successful in what is a truly demanding arena.
So as I finish this post just beyond the 4th of July, I am hoping you all enjoyed a brief celebration, but don’t wait too long until you stop and appreciate all you have managed to accomplish, you deserve it!