Especially during deadline season, staff morale is important to productivity. With our winter break approaching, we needed to finish as many pages as possible; break was still weeks away, but our staff was already frustrated and checked out.
We went into the fall JEA/NSPA convention in Dallas looking for ideas to improve staff morale. The sessions we attended were informative, and they gave us a starting point for coming up with our own ideas. The most exciting concept we created and brought back with us from the convention was giving our staff notebooks and stickers for incentives. These stickers ranged from “capturing the moment” for taking a good picture to “making someone’s day” for helping a stressed friend. We gave every staff member a blank notepad to use for yearbook purposes that they could, over time, cover with stickers that our adviser and editors designed. We use the stickers as a point system; staffers get stickers for doing quality work, and 10 stickers earn a “media monster,” a cute, monster-shaped keychain.
The most exciting concept we created and brought back with us from the convention was giving our staff notebooks and stickers for incentives. These stickers ranged from “capturing the moment” for taking a good picture to “making someone’s day” for helping a stressed friend.
The idea of media monsters came from John Dent of Los Pueblos High School [CA]. We took this idea and supplemented it with the stickers, but we also added it to our Staff Member/Photographer of the Now award. This “award” is given to any staffer who goes above and beyond. In the past, the recognized staffer received a certificate celebrating them, but we decided to add the media monster as an extra prize. With a very competitive staff, we thought that introducing a (friendly) competition, in which the staffer with the most media monsters at the end of the year would win an award, would influence our staffers to do their best work. It seems silly to say that stickers have changed the culture of the classroom, but they really have caused a positive shift in the classroom atmosphere.
Seasonal-themed crafts have always been a big part of our staff traditions. This year, for the first time, we decorated pumpkins around Halloween. This was a relatively cheap, but still fun, craft that we did to take a break from working through our spreads. Staff members loved having the day off to create their own pumpkin which would follow them around them room during the Halloween season.
One of our longest-running traditions is sewing and decorating stockings to hang up around the room during the month of December. Like the pumpkins, this gave staffers a day to relax and decorate something that represented them. Normally, our adviser would give us small gifts (candy, dollar store toys) in our stockings, but this year we decided to include our editors in the gift giving. Each editor wrote a personal note to a few staff members thanking them for all of their hard work so far this year. Two of our editors bought ornaments for each staff member, and wrote the staff members’ initials on them so each person would have something to hang on our class tree. For our quirky staff, we decided we would have a blue Christmas tree in the room for us all to take a part in decorating. This allowed each member to have an active role in contributing to the eclectic spirit of our classroom.
Staying positive isn’t easy, especially when you want to pull your hair out. We’ve all been there. We’ve found that these easy, and relatively inexpensive, activities bring our staff together and reduce stress near deadline time. Even if these activities don’t work for you, the key is to find something that excites and unites your staff.