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This Back to School Guide provides five weeks of activities that focus on building a supportive environment for staff at the start of a new school year. The activities are designed to build staff connection and well-being, and they are also adaptable to an in-person and/or virtual context.
We encourage administrators to adapt the activities to ensure they meet the needs and contexts of staff, considering what is culturally responsive as well as meets specific safety and space requirements.
As we enter a new school year, it is essential to gauge staff’s needs and create supportive routines and structures in order to build a stable foundation for the year. All staff members are arriving with varied experiences from the past six months, and consequently may be impacted in different ways.
Early on, it is important to build in time for staff members to share their experiences and start to identify their needs as well as ways they can be supported. Additionally, establishing routines and setting clear expectations creates predictability and a sense of safety for staff. The following actions will help staff navigate this new context.
Identifying ways to foster relationship-building is key to building a supportive school community. Positive peer relationships among staff members create a sense of belonging, increase collaboration, and positively impact staff well-being.
There are many ways to connect! Choose strategies that best fit your school team and consciously build them into your school day, such as:
While staff may be primarily focused on their students’ feelings, it is equally important that they check in with their own feelings. Staff may be feeling a variety of emotions. Once they’re able to identify these feelings, they can determine what is needed to move forward.
The following activities can help staff build time into their days to take note of their feelings and clearly communicate that their well-being is a priority:
The ability to advocate for your needs is an important resilience characteristic. To put this into practice effectively, put the emotional identification activities from week three into action through effective communication. This requires us to build a psychologically safe environment where staff feel comfortable engaging in this type of communication.
The following strategies will communicate to staff that you want to work together to ensure their needs are being met:
Now that we are five weeks into the school year, it is a good time to pause and reflect on what is working, what is not working, and what we want to change. Create time to connect with staff and gather feedback on how things are going. Be sure to listen to needs and work collaboratively to develop solutions.
These purposeful activities help ensure that staff feel heard and be confident that you are working to meet their needs: