I have always been driven to foster a positive, trusting, and loving culture in my workspaces, and it kills me when I hear of principals who prioritize micromanaging, dictating, or are simply focused on test scores and power. I just don’t believe a staff deserves that type of leadership, so I consistently prioritized creating the type of culture that I would want to work in… a little secret: it starts with toilet paper.
Most districts are very budget-conscious and many items get bought in bulk, including toilet paper (typically so thin that you can see through several sheets!). Actively accepting that kind of quality (even though toilet paper may seem miniscule) for individuals who dedicate their life to supporting and educating children didn’t sit right with me, so I started buying in bulk from COSTCO and stocking up the faculty restrooms on my time off. It cost me around $50 per month and everyone was grateful. Mindfulness to take care of my staff, even in the smallest moments of their day, is what they deserve. Not a big expense, but definitely a big response.
This is just one thing that I did to help foster a positive, trusting, and loving culture and it is probably the best bang-for-the-buck idea out there. It showed the staff that I care about the little AND big things that will support their enjoyment of work. I promise I recognize that toilet paper doesn’t make everyone want to come to work more often or stay late after their shift… but it helps to know that people in your workspace are actively attempting to support and care for you.
I worked on many other projects that were built on this simple act. We held a Recharge Zone every Thursday and Friday, an area in the office where we had snacks and drinks for ANY employee. Bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers, district police, and campus staff could swing by at any time to grab a small treat and go. This was such a special and small way to get people up and moving, engaging with one another, and injecting a boost of energy to help everyone through their week.
We were constantly trying to get our staff to bond: posting high school graduation pictures, baby pictures, wedding pictures - all were competitions to see if we could guess who the photos were taken of. We posted bucket lists and tried to help each other attain at least one item on each list. We held potluck lunches. We never missed a Thanksgiving lunch. Perfect Attendance Poker was a staff favorite. I made student and staff morale one of our top priorities each and every year.
What type of culture do you want? What type of culture do you currently have? Have you thought about it lately? Have you asked your staff what they might want to start, stop, or continue prioritizing to improve your campus culture? I encourage you to take some time and define the type of culture you want to work in and/or provide for your staff… and don’t forget to start with the toilet paper.