Beat the Holiday Slump with this Staff Countdown to Winter Break

Make the crazy days of December better for everyone.

staff countdown

Need a way to boost morale and keep your staff energized this month? We have you covered! Your team will love our Staff Countdown to Holiday Break!

Tons of talented administrators and school leaders have been sharing the ways they use a countdown-type of activity each year during the busy days of December. We’re all excited about the holidays and our looming vacation. But this time of the year can be especially challenging for students and teachers alike. Turn up the fun with easy, joyful gestures that make everyone excited to come to school. 

The idea for the countdown to holiday break is super simple and can be done in a number of ways.

Ultimately, this is a way to have staff look forward to each school day in December. Mix it up by alternating between offering a treat or posing a group challenge. 

Either the staff is given a small treat each day, or there’s a challenge to complete each day. At some schools, staff turn in their countdown sheet on the last day before the break to be put into a drawing for bigger, more exciting prizes. The administrators in our group tell us that planning even small, short activities for their hardworking staff generates great joy throughout the building. It is a great investment in the well-being of your school! 

Originally we got this idea from Michelle Dietrich, principal of Steenrod Elementary School in Wheeling, West Virginia. In 2018, she included these items:

  • A cardinal in a pear tree … and other assorted fruit
  • Dove chocolate treats
  • French Horns in the staff lounge
  • A CALLing Card (Come A Little Late)
  • Jeans Until January (better than five golden rings!)
  • A GOOSE (Get Out Of School Early) pass
  • Smells of Summer (because swans swim…and you swim in the summer)
  • Hot Chocolate Cart
  • A Candy Cane (danced so much needed a cane to get home)
  • Lord’s a Leaping, It’s Lunch!
  • a Kazoo
  • Gift Card Giveaway (one per hour)

staff countdown examples

Andrea Kaplan, principal in Mukwonago, Wisconsin designed a countdown to “build staff morale, boomerang kindness and to help spread a little joy during the last 12 days prior to Christmas break”. Andrea’s staff loved it. In 2017, she included: 

  • Jeans until January
  • Popcorn bar
  • Coffee or hot chocolate
  • Fresh fruit in the teacher’s lounge 
  • “Yes You Can!” (her school’s mantra) swag
  • A sweet treat
  • Christmas cake
  • a make your own Chex Mix bar 
  • beverage cart
  • Staff photo (print one for everyone in the building!)
  • Cheese and sausage platter

Andrea says, “It was something to look forward to each day. Also, it brought smiles to our students’ faces as I pushed around a beverage cart delivering drinks to staff members in their classrooms. I do my best as a Leader to value and appreciate my staff as much as possible throughout the school year. This activity is just one of many ways I show how much I care about them. In the end…we are a team and it takes a village to help students be successful. I want them to know I see them working hard and every chance I get to show my appreciation is worth it!”

Finally, Mike Caldwell, principal at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, Idaho, found a way to give back to the community with his staff. Together, they made over 100 sandwiches for a local homeless shelter.  “It was awesome,” he said. “We’ve done this for several years and many of our teachers commented on how it is one of the best things we do together as a faculty. I couldn’t agree more.”

Are you pressed for time but still want to do something fun and meaningful for your staff? We want to make it easy for you to make these culture-building activities happen! 

That’s why we made this super easy-to-personalize “Countdown to Holiday Break” calendar for you.

winter break countdown for your staff

Choose whatever ideas make sense for your team and then add them to your calendar. Our printable Countdown to Winter Break Calendar is editable, so you can make it your own. 

Here are just a few of our 12 Days Before Winter Break Ideas. 

  • Jeans and sneakers day
  • Eat lunch in the Staff Room but make sure there’s no talking about school!
  • Morning donut and bagel bar 
  • Candy canes and hot cocoa mix in every mailbox 
  • Flannel day 
  • Hot chocolate bar with all the fixings 
  • Cozy sock and slipper day 
  • Gift card raffle every hour on the last day of school
  • Cookie exchange 
  • Favorite team jersey day 
  • Ice cream sundae bar with all the fixings 
  • Nacho bar
  • Off-duty day! Your duty will be covered.
  • Class coverage — you will get a surprise 30-minute break today!
  • Thank you note station—spread gratitude!
  • Chapsticks in mailboxes for a “chappy” new year 
  • Ugly holiday sweater day
  • Crazy holiday sock day
  • Coffee bar 
  • Book, magazine and puzzle swap for the relaxing days ahead
  • Beat the chill with Hawaiian shirts 
  • GOOSE (Get Out Of School Early pass)
  • Caroling in the building 
  • Double lunch period today (ask your PTA for help!)
  • Traveling snack cart 
  • Winter classroom decoration competition 

Grab the printable Countdown to Holiday Break Calendar here

Do tell us what other ideas you’d add to this list—we’d love to know! Share your ideas in the Principal Life Facebook Group

Happy holidays! 

 

Posted by amy mascott

Amy Mascott is Senior Digital Editor and Creative Manager for WeAreTeachers.

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