Busting the Winter Blues for Administrators, Faculty, and Students

Vol. 14 No. 4

heads eletter Vol.14 No.4 winterblues

The midyear doldrums will strike your school in the post-holiday haze, dragging at the school community as everyone gets back into the regular schedule. That’s not to mention the temporary onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), triggered by the waning daylight hours and plunging temperatures of winter. Re-inspire your students, teachers, and fellow administrators through these winter blues busters!

1. Encourage people to go outside, even for a few minutes a day.

Sunlight promotes the production of Vitamin D—a deficit of which is thought to contribute to the winter blues. Find reasons for everyone to spend time outdoors, weather permitting.

Students and teachers: For younger grades, you can encourage classes to continue taking recess outside. Consider sending a brief note home to parents advising them to dress their children on the assumption that they will be going outside at some point during the day. For older grades, urge your physical education staff to run optional games like kickball or basketball during lunch, and keep the outdoor courts useable (if possible) to continue giving students a physical outlet.

Administrators: Encourage your peers to take time away from their desks over the course of the day. Start a walking club program that offers some sort of small incentive—perhaps a chance to work from home for a day when it’s not regularly encouraged. When you schedule meetings, try to arrange them to be held in rooms with lots of windows and natural light.

2. Show your appreciation for their work.

It’s the season to be thankful for the blessings and benefits your school provides for its community. Give a little of that gratitude back to your students, faculty, and staff, and you’ll see them bloom under the positive attention.

Students: This is the time of year when students display the fruits of their first semester’s labor. Make a point of attending the art shows, concerts, and plays your students put on, and personally praise the students whose work and effort you most appreciate. A personal word from you can go a long way with a student.

Teachers: While stopping in for your daily rounds of casual classroom critiques, remember to mention one or two things a teacher is doing exceptionally well, in addition to things to work on. While this should be part of your regular coaching with teachers, making a point of doing so this time of year—and praising overall positive trends in their professional growth—should help alleviate some of winter’s depression.

Administrators: Thank your peers and colleagues by sending them cards containing handwritten notes telling them how their work has impacted the rest of the school and thanking them for the hard work they do every day. They are the “power behind the curtain” that guarantees your school is operating smoothly and effectively for its students, and should be acknowledged for the not-always-public work that they do.

3. Foster a culture of inclusion in your school community.

One 2014 report argues that companies whose employees feel “included” —acknowledged for personal achievements while feeling part of a greater team—work harder to benefit the work-family and are more likely to develop innovative solutions for old problems. (This holds particularly true for your Millennial employees!) When people want to withdraw into themselves during the winter, bring them back into the team’s fold by fostering this “culture of inclusion” in your classrooms and offices.

You can build your school’s culture of inclusion in a variety of ways.

  • Ask your students, teachers, and colleagues for their unique perspectives on your school through surveys, either internal or through third-party vendors. Then act on suitable suggestions.
  • Encourage constant coaching and evaluation on a year-round basis to ensure that everyone knows what’s expected and how they can achieve their goals. (For more on a coaching-based evaluation process, read Comprehensive Faculty Development from the ISM Bookstore.)
  • Support your community however you can. Offer resources, time, and wisdom to allow others to achieve their mission-based goals and projects.

When the winter blues grab your campus this year, perk everyone up through these three simple tips! Sometimes, all it takes is a smile to boost someone back into a positive frame of mind.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Division Heads Vol. 8 No. 4 Use Rally Points to Turn Winter Doldrums Into Morale Boosters
The Source for Division Heads
Vol. 11 No. 5 Snow, Snow, Go Away: Winter-Recess Policies
The Source for Risk Managers Vol. 5 No. 5 You're Brilliant! You Will Get Through These Winter Doldrums
The Source for Human Resources Vol. 8 No. 4 A Dreary Classroom Is Cause for a Lawsuit

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 7 Research Report: Faculty Culture Profile II and Student Culture Profile II, Winter 2012-13 Data

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