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Winter Blahs Article
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How to Keep the Winter 'Blahs' Out of Your School

Source: National School Public Relations Association

It's no secret that winter "blahs" are real. In fact, more and more studies have documented just how much shorter days and bad weather can affect mood and productivity. So how do you keep the season's dreariness from infecting your school? Consider these ways to keep up spirits, morale, and classroom performance in the days ahead:

  • Help employees focus on work. Take a hint from Bruce Dearborn, associate principal at Islander Middle School in Mercer Island, Washington, who made an arrangement with a local car repair shop to pick up staff members' cars that need work, do the work at the station, and return the cars to the school's parking lot - often by the closing bell. Employees also receive a minimum of a 10% discount. This time-saving service has proved so popular that Dearborn is considering similar partnerships for dry cleaning, shoe repairs, movies and drugstore items.

  • Hold a "Walk in My Shoes" day. Promote staff appreciation of each others' responsibilities by allowing them to swap jobs for part of a day. Teachers might swap classes with another school, or serve as an administrator. Secretaries could act as instructional aides, etc...

  • Organize all-staff social activities. Staff outings help build camaraderie and allow people to interact in a relaxed atmosphere. Plan a night out to a cultural or sports event and enlist support from local restaurants to offer dinner discounts to employees attending the event.

  • Work with the local businesses to create formal recognition programs. These can take many forms and may be held monthly or at the end of the year. Most successful programs allow for a peer nominating system. Local businesses are often supportive of formal recognition programs and will provide incentives and awards.

  • Give staff a "gift card" for a back, neck and foot massage by a therapist you hire to work in the lounge on the next day students aren't present. (This was one principal's holiday gift to her staff.)

  • Leave little messages in employees' mailboxes - things like "I was very impressed with the lesson I saw you teach today." Or "Thank you for clearing the sidewalk so quickly after the snowstorm." (Notes are an easy thing to do year-round.)

Of course, students can feel a little depressed during the winter, too. Some fun ways for teachers to lighten the mood include:

  • Develop an educational game show based on favorites such as Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with questions based on current lessons. Individual classroom winners could compete against others to crown grade-level champions. Local businesses could also offer items for prizes.

  • Show off those hidden talents - such as singing, dancing, playing an instrument, displaying paintings or other crafts, etc. in a student-led assembly. Kids will see teachers in a whole different light.
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