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Principal Ideas: Stress Relief, Partnership, and More

Just think of Principal Ideas as a virtual show-and-tell for principals. Each week in the coming school year we'll present five new principal-tested ideas. Send in your idea today! See the sidebar to learn how to be part of Principal Ideas.

Menu Music

Our morning announcements always include the menu for the day. Just for fun, and to spice up morning announcements a bit, I use pre-recorded music as a backdrop for some lunch menu announcements. For example,

  • On cheeseburger day, I play an excerpt of Jimmy Buffet's song "Cheeseburger in Paradise."
  • When turkey is served, I play excerpts from Adam Sandler's "The Thanksgiving Song."
  • When sloppy Joes are on the menu, I play "Lunchlady Land" by Adam Sandler.
  • If the menu item of the day is hot dogs, I play an excerpt from Elvis Presely's "Hot Dog."

All of the songs can be found on iTunes. Some of them have lyrics that are inappropriate for school, so I make a cassette tape of a 10- to 20-second soundbite that I will use on the announcements. Often, I record the funny or catchy phrase several times back to back on the tape. When it's time to read the menu, I play the short tape and ask the students to guess what's for lunch today. Students really love this; in fact, students will walk into school in the morning excited that it is "Sloppy Joe Day"! We always follow up the menu music by reminding students to thank the cafeteria staff for all of their hard work in preparing such great meals for us each and every day. Thanks to Joel Gugino, principal at Sinking Springs Elementary School in York, Pennsylvania

Pointers from

Education World columnist George Pawlas is author of The Administrator's Guide to School-Community Relations, which contains hundreds of great principal ideas -- like this one that Pawlas shared with us:

Are you always looking for ideas for your parent newsletter? When I was a principal I participated in a monthly principals' newsletter exchange. The idea was simple: All principals in the exchange sent a copy of their school newsletter to other members in the exchange. At one time our exchange had more than 100 members! I got many ideas for improving my newsletter from the newsletters that were shared by exchange members. You can set up that same sort of exchange among principals in your district or county, with principal friends, or with principals you meet at state and national conferences. Or, if you post your newsletter online, we can set up an "Electronic Newsletter Exchange" right here on Education World. Send a link to your online newsletter and we'll set up a little "link gallery" right here. Then watch this column for news about our online Newsletter Link Gallery.

Be sure to see George Pawlas's monthly Ed World column, Pawlas on PR for PRincipals. Click here to learn more about his book, The Administrator's Guide to School-Community Relations, or to purchase a copy.

Marsh-Mellow Stress Relief

When staff morale or attitudes seem to be at a low point, it's time for a marshmallow fight! I place a supply of fresh marshmallows on the table in the staff room and make an announcement for staff to "pick up their supplies." The mood lightens tremendously as teachers toss marshmallows and laugh throughout the meeting.
Thanks to Ruth Tweto, principal at Orion Elementary School on Elmendorf Air Force Base (EAFB) in Fairbanks, Alaska

Partnerships of All Kinds

We have worked with businesses in our community to arrange many partnerships. Last year, our PTA arranged for every staff member to get a bag full of goodies -- tape, markers, paper clips, and the like -- from the local Staples store. I usually call one of the other school supply stores we use to ask if they might donate some small items to give to teachers because we do so much business with the store. I don't abuse their generosity, so they are always willing. This year they helped sponsor a speaker for a two-day workshop, so I didn't ask for the small stuff. In addition, I work closely with Bruno's, a local food store chain. Bruno's donates about 60 bananas for the gifted class's Banana Races (picture a Pinewood Derby using bananas!). The local store manager even serves as one of the race judges. In addition, two local churches that have students at our school have "adopted" us. One group provides goodies about once a month for the teacher lounges and they have a special fund to help pay for field trips for kids who can't afford them. A group of retired educators at another church also does special things for the teachers, especially in January, which can be such a blah month.
Source: Teri Stokes, "School-Business Partnerships That Work: Success Stories from Schools of All Sizes" ( -- September 16, 2003)

Leave Every Meeting With New Ideas

I have a few standard procedures that help set a positive tone for staff meetings at my school. First, I e-mail an agenda to all staff members in advance of the meeting. I always invite anybody who has a topic that should be added to the agenda to let me know. There is also a part of every meeting that I call "Your Turn" -- it is a time when the meeting is open to anybody who has something to bring up. Finally, teachers love to leave a meeting just like they leave a conference -- with something valuable they can take home. I look for great ideas and lesson plans on the Internet, and I make copies to distribute at the end of each staff meeting to be sure everybody has a fun new idea or two to try out.
Source: Debbie Levitz, "Great Staff Meetings: Pointers from the Principals Who Lead Them" ( -- August 20, 2002)

Join the Fun -- Share an Idea!

The ideas presented in this article come from the Education World archive and from principals just like you. Since these principals have been kind enough to "show and tell" an idea, now it's your turn! Share an idea you've used to

- Celebrate Students
- Welcome Students Back to School
- Motivate Teachers
- Involve Parents
- Raise Money
- Plan a Special Event
- Make Graduation Day Special
- Liven Up Your A.M. Announcements
- Plan an Effective Staff Meeting
- Get Some Good PR for Your School

or any other topic of interest to principals.

Send your idea today to [email protected].

Be sure to include your name, your school name, and your school address because if we post your idea in Principal Ideas, we'll send you an Education World mug!

Education World® Editor-in-Chief
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