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Principal Ideas: Increasing a Positive Environment

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.

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
- Plan a Special Event
- Welcome Students Back to School
- Make Graduation Day Special
- Liven Up Your A.M. Announcements
- Motivate Teachers
- Involve Parents
- Raise Money
- 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 principalideas@
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!

Secret Pal

In order to make sure that all of our teachers receive a note of encouragement each week, each of us has a "Secret Pal." The job of the pal is to put a note or a little trinket in their pal's mailbox weekly. This has lifted morale and helped build a nice sense of community in our school. At the end of the school year, we have a big potluck party and reveal ourselves to our pals.
Thanks to LaToy Kennedy, principal at Bluford Communications Magnet School in Greensboro, North Carolina

Positive Referrals Make Schools Better

Most schools have discipline referrals, in which teachers "write up" kids for misbehavior and send them to the office with the referral form. Assistant principals deal with the majority of those situations. However, I felt it was important to have a positive referral program. Our positive referral form was similar to the discipline referral form in format, except we put it on bright-colored paper. Teachers would write up students for doing positive things. It could be that Tim got a B+ on a math quiz, or that Juan helped a student on crutches move around the school for a week, or that Megan's smiling face brightens up each day As long as it was something authentic, it was appropriate to write up a positive referral and put it in my mailbox. When I pulled the positive referral out of my mailbox, I would send for the student. Initially, students were nervous, frightened, or defensive when they were summoned to the office. They would walk in and immediately tell the secretary, "It wasn't me!" When I called a student into my office, I would congratulate that student and tell him or her how proud I was of the accomplishment. I would share the name of the teacher who made the referral and explain the teacher's reason for making it. I would thank the student for his or her contribution to making our school a better place. That alone might have been enough. I took it one step farther, however, by picking up the phone and calling the parent
Source: Todd Whitaker, Motivating Teachers: A Wire Side Chat with Todd Whitaker

Teacher's Room Makeover

Spruce up the teachers' lounge with some paint, new pictures or curtains, and some new-used furniture will make the space a more comfortable one. (This could be a special Teacher Appreciation Week gift from you or the PTA.)
Source: "Sixty-Five Ways to Recognize Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week -- and All Year Long" ( -- April 22, 2003)

School Survival Kits

Although the new school year may seem daunting on the first day, survival kits can help teachers and students feel welcome and inspire them to start the year on a positive note. These plastic or brown paper bags are filled with goodies that are fun, uplifting, and frequently tasty. Each bag includes an explanation of the significance of each item. Teachers can reach in for some motivation or solace at rough moments during the school year. The kit might contain some of these items:

  • Life Savers: For when you've had one of those days.
  • Hugs and Kisses: To make everything worthwhile.
  • Bath salts: "To take you away." You deserve a quiet break.
  • Pipe cleaner: Flexibility is important for a successful school year.
  • Matches: For those days when you feel you need to light a fire under your students.
    Source: Dale Maxwell, see more ideas at When All Else Fails, Turn to the Survival Kit

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