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Leaders, Spark New Joy Leaders, Spark New Joy

Leaders, Spark New Joy

by Chad Aiken-Zdroik
Chad Aiken-Zdroik Chad Aiken-Zdroik Joyful Journalist
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How’s school culture faring amid the ups and downs of in-person, hybrid, and remote learning?  

After investing so much to grow a healthy culture, there is one method of insurance against slipping into stagnancy.  

Spark new joy in your district and keep school culture healthy and whole. Let’s go! 



The Golden Minute, wherein spending a single extra minute a week on an individual can have an enormous impact over time, isn’t just for students. Feedback helps team members grow, and while constructive feedback is of course invaluable, recognition fuels the desire to learn and improve. Challenge yourself to set aside time to recognize each team member individually for their contributions or accomplishments each week. Start with private messages and, if appropriate, add public recognition to team communications or announcements too. 


Social media 

Some schools have embraced social media and its powerful impact on school branding. Have you considered the impact of sharing joy on your school’s brand and reputation? Social media provides a great opportunity to expand culture beyond the four walls of school. 

Strategy for social goes beyond meticulously planning what your main accounts will post. A strong school culture invites people within the school to post and provides a platform for them to share as well. Retweeting and sharing others’ posts (with permission!) helps elevate the joy shared. 

Sharing wins  

In the words of Chaka Khan: Tell me something good! Whether it’s finally chatting with an always-silent student or just making it to every class on time that day, ask your team what their wins for the week are. Then shout those wins from the rooftops! In 2021, every single smile counts.  


Emotional support 

Perhaps one of the more exhausting forms of support, the time spent on emotional support is worth the investment. As teachers pour themselves into helping students in new and traditional ways, look for opportunities to recognize them without glorifying burnout. While superhuman sacrifice seems to come naturally for educators, this type of giving until it hurts should not be required (even as an unspoken norm) for people to succeed at their jobs every day. And when you spot signs of burnout, speak up! A helping hand and listening ear can make all the difference. 
Curious how to kick off this whole emotional support thing? One way to create a culture geared for supporting each other is practicing validation. Validation means communicating to someone their contributions are worthwhile and appreciated. Brian Fretwell, who studies engagement, culture, and neuroscience, suggests asking, “What went well in the past week because of you?” Use it to spark conversations in coaching, which can lead to sharing external validation. However, the phrase can also encourage staff to reflect on their own contributions and slowly train themselves to build internal validation.  

If you’re not wired this way, that’s ok! At least recognize it and support the people giving from their hearts. Perhaps another leader on your team is willing to step up for the emotional health of all...empower that person to lead the way in your place.  


When it starts from the top and cascades down the ranks, school culture is powerful. Your leadership is powerful, too. And a joyful culture motivates learners to do more, learn more, and become more. 

Thank you for your leadership today and every day! 


Follow-up resource: Leadership at every level​

Mentorship can provide leadership opportunities, reduce turnover, and strengthen your culture. Here are 10 ways to get started.


Chad Aiken-Zdroik Chad Aiken-Zdroik Joyful Journalist
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