12 Days of Holiday Cheer–what a hoot!

It’s year two for 12 Days of Holiday Cheer at Valley Vista.  I’m having a great time with it.  Last year, our elementary team brewed up the 12 days and with minor variations, rolled out the festivities in unison.  This year, I joined a FB group started by Melinda Miller, Holiday Planning for your Staff and School.  It took 12 Days planning to a new level seeing what all these awesome folks around the country were planning!

Things I loved most about this year’s 12 Days:

  1. I posted the calendar from the start.
  2. Everything was free or inexpensive
  3. I got creative with things I already do with staff
  4. I left activities sitting out rather than swap them for the next one
  5. I realized too late that my 12 Days is only eleven days long… December brain at its best. 😉 Cracks me up every time I see the calendar.

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Posting the calendar was an added bonus.  I stage the 12 Days of Holiday Cheer in the staff room along a row of windows.  Santa Hats numbering 12 where each activity will be posted along with the calendar.  Another calendar is on the white board near staff mailboxes.  “Hot chocolate is Thursday.  That’ll be good.”  “I wonder what the pipe cleaner thing will be.”  This was the conversation around the calendar I overheard one morning.

Day two’s duck hunt was an unexpected surprise.  As I finished setting up the evening IMG_1018 2before, I heard a teacher in the staff room, “I’ve got 4.  What have you found?”     Hilarious.  Then on days three and four, the ducks are MOVING.  Who’s moving the ducks around?  A duck hunt that just keeps going.  LOVE IT!

On our FB page, every level of budget was represented.  My goal was to spend as little money as possible.  The idea was fun and lightness, not prizes and competition.  Maybe next year I’ll incorporate those elements.  But for this year, I purchased: rubber ducks (Duck Hunt, day 2), pipe cleaners (Art Show, day 5), hot chocolate (Concert, day 6), M&Ms (Grinch Pills, day 9) and oranges (Orange you glad? day 11).

My office wall is decorated with rotating inspiration: quotes, screenshots from Twitter, kid art.  I use the wall regularly to ground myself, be encouraged, or have a laugh and not take myself so seriously.  Motivation Monday (day 3) took advantage of my collection and shared a motivating mantra with each staff member.  I put the extras on the staff room fridge and they’re slowly disappearing!  I love it!!

IMG_1210At the start of each year, I put out a staff survey.  It’s lighthearted: favorite warm drink, favorite snack, stressors at work, surprise day off wishes, etc.  So day 7 took advantage of this information I collected!  Clues about staff are posted in the staff room with the answer key on the fridge: Who’s Who?  Just like our students, staff looked for themselves first.  “Where are I?”  “I can’t remember what I said.”  The downside to this activity is that not everyone completed my survey.  Even so, I’ll keep it for next year.

Last year I took each day as a singular event–items/activity out then items/activity put away.  Not this year.  For one, I have too much going on to be that diligent and second, more staff get to experience each Day of Cheer.  Pipe Cleaner Art Show (day 5) is a perfect example.  From two items to four creations, we now have a table of creativity: a man in a boat, an owl, Christmas trees and presents, a flower.  What is more soothing to a busy mind that bending a pipe cleaner?  Personally I’ve been working on a swing set in my office whenever I’m on the phone.  😉


I don’t remember when I realized my 12 Days of Holiday Cheer only has eleven days on it.  But what really matters is that I chuckle at myself every time I see the calendar.  What a goofball.  It’s only 12… how hard could that be?!?  I blame the Friday off at the end.  😉 It sums up the whole point of the 12 Days: lighthearted fun, distraction, coming together as a staff, laughing together…. good stuff.  If you aren’t already ringing in the holiday season with your staff in some way, consider joining us next year!

Thoughts for next year:

  1. Elf hunt with staff faces on elves
  2. Holiday music lyric or movie quote guessing game
  3. Include 12 days! 😉








Crying in the counseling room & other leadership highlights.

It’s a Monday morning start to a much needed weeklong Thanksgiving Break.  So much to be thankful for… but that’s not what this post is about.  Let’s get right to it.

I got caught crying in the counseling room on Friday.  No one likes their principal crying through the halls so I headed for the closest private space.  A good cry, a few deep breaths, dabbing with the tissue to minimize redness and puffiness (nice try) and a few more deep breaths.  Forgot about our psychologist using this space until the door opened behind me.  Dang!

I don’t mind that people know I cry at work.  It’s a tough job.  My heart is in it.  So I cry at work.  What I don’t like is how awkward it is for people to see it.  They just don’t know what to do when the captain of the ship is reduced to tears.  Neither do I, quite frankly.  That’s why I keep it private.

It’s now a joke in the office that my crying spot is the greenhouse.  If you can’t reach me by text or radio, whatever you do, don’t come out to the greenhouse!  My first year at my new school when I didn’t know anything about the culture or community, I spent many frustrating sessions in the greenhouse just letting out my frustration through tears and deep breathing.  The constant feeling of imbalance and uncertainty was overwhelming.

Friday’s cry was miles away from year one’s tears.  Now that we’re firmly in year three, I have the pulse of our culture and know our community.  Now I cry for our students, for my inability to support them enough, for the system’s structures that are too rigid, not child-centered enough, for the stress, frustration and sadness I feel when supporting a student in crisis.

This is the hard work of leadership.  Teachers feel it too.  A student is crying out for help in so many ways and as much as we support, we are never doing enough.

If you know me or have read my blog before, you know I live firmly in the cup half full world of optimism and hope.  I see school as an awesome place to be every day, an opportunity for students to learn, grow, play and explore with caring adults to guide them.  Every moment is for learning–math, games at recess, lunch with peers, walking through the hall to the library.  We are learning how to be in a complex and interconnected world.  We walk quietly in respect for classrooms in session.  We chat with friends while we eat.  We take our outs in four square because it’s the right thing to do.  We work hard through our math problems and get help when we’re stuck.  And even when students falter, it’s about learning.  A reminder about walking quietly.  Facilitating peers sitting together.  A side conversation about honesty and following the rules of the game.  Setting up a partnership so the math can be accessed with confidence and success.

But some needs are greater than these.  Sometimes the learning opportunity, the faltering student is beyond the resources I have at hand.  And I work to preserve a student’s dignity despite the way they behave or the words they say.  Sheltering this moment of struggle and calling for reinforcements.

So I had a good cry afterward.  And my red eyes and puffiness gave me away.

This is the emotional heavy lifting of leadership.  And I can still say unequivocally that I love my job.  I just sometimes wish it weren’t so hard.

From a rejuvenating place on this crisp Monday Morning,