37 inspirational ideas to kickoff your school year (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

I just participated in a great brainstorming session with some outstanding educational leaders at the MSSAA summer institute, and made note of 37 different ideas to inspire your school and have a successful kickoff to the school year.  The best educators beg, borrow and steal ideas and adapt them to be their own - so I offer this list to be borrowed, stolen and adapted (no need to beg!).


  1. Have staff write one fun fact about themselves on a post-it note on their classroom door.
  2. Create a scavenger hunt and have folks hunt down items, discover new info about fellow staff members, the school or the community.
  3. Create a teacher survival kit: a mini hershey's bar for a pick-me-up, a K-Cup for a jolt of caffeine, some office supplies, etc.
  4. Have staff set a personal goal, in addition to their student learning and professional practice goal: make it about personal health, nutrition, work/home balance, family, etc - and have check-ins!
  5. Leave a personal note, post-it, memo or quote on teachers' desks for the first time they go to their classroom.
  6. Hold a picnic for new staff, all staff, students new to the building and their families (or all of the above!).
  7. Hold a Locker Night for students new to the building (e.g. rising sixth graders, rising freshman).
  8. Have the faculty (and upper class men) clap for students as they enter the building for the first time to demonstrate their support in new students.
  9. Have staff answer, "who are we as a staff and school community?"  Post answers.
  10. Ask staff to bring in a banner of their college alma mater.
  11. Send letters to local businesses and colleges to make connections, ask for donations.
  12. Open the school building late on opening day for students and offer refreshments, so students can spend additional time in the building if needed and bring parents around to see the school.
  13. Have past students come back to speak with faculty and thank them for making a difference in their lives.
  14. Video tape current/former students thanking faculty and wishing them a good school year.
  15. Public kudos: ask staff to publicly thank a fellow staff member for supporting them, getting them through last year, the summer, get them excited for this school year, etc.
  16. Ask students to showcase their work, performance (e.g. acting, improv, singing, dancing, music) as a "welcome back" for staff and/or students.
  17. Ask staff to go back to their roots and explain, "Why teach?" and post answers publicly.
  18. Hold a Jeopardy! game to engage staff - to include anything from the mandatory trainings and details to lighter staff/school/community trivia.
  19. Have staff submit a picture from their summer; create a slideshow set to music.
  20. Post pictures along the the school hallways of students and staff engaging in teaching and learning.
  21. Have staff brainstorm what they would like to see for personalized learning opportunities throughout the school year - and try to accommodate, support and tailor to staff needs.
  22. Organize a student-run technology help desk during the school day (and/or after school) to provide tech supports for staff and students.
  23. Provide trainings - before school begins, opening days, after the start of school - on topics of interest to staff (technology, social media, classroom management) and give staff choice!
  24. Build a bank of staff best practices in a GoogleDoc and/or Google+ site.
  25. Work with ITS or tech-forward staff member to create mini-training videos to help eliminate administrivia, help get through technical knowledge and agenda items outside of formal faculty meetings, and provide on-call support to staff members
  26. Have snack volunteer/assignments to rotate who brings food for faculty meetings.
  27. Hold themed luncheon competitions: best soup, best salad, best dessert, pot luck, etc.
  28. Post fun faculty pictures on a bulletin board to support folks better knowing one another as human beings, not just colleagues.
  29. Have staff members anonymously submit their top three favorite songs, and have students and staff guess whose songs are whose - even make it an ongoing competition, released weekly.
  30. If staff need a mental break, assign staff to groups, have them leave the building after work for 20 minutes, spend time together, and return better knowing their colleagues and have a quick mental break!
  31. Assign note takers to faculty meetings, team meetings, etc - remind staff that these can be used for educator evaluation evidence.
  32. Ask local businesses for $1 gift card donations to use as raffle prizes.
  33. Give an item and poem to staff members to keep on their desk as a reminder about what we hold true in our schools (starfish, along with a copy of the starfish poem)
  34. Ask Home Depot or Lowe's for donations of flowers for staff members - plant around the school or at homes.
  35. Watch the video of Dalton Sherman, speaking to the Dallas ISD: "Do YOU believe in me?"  Ask students to personalize their own experience to share with staff members.
  36. Check out http://www.educationworld.com/ for additional opening day ideas.
  37. Check out the NASSP or MASCD for principals' blogs and additional ideas.

Please share and retweet this list, and add additional ideas to the comments section below!  Thanks to all the participants in the MSSAA session who created this list.

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