Welcoming Staff Back to the Building

Dana GoodierBlog, Connect Better, Engage Better, Lead Better, Teach Happier


  • Be mindful as you plan for return to school team-building activities. Consider your staff’s comfort level.
  • You can survey staff prior to the start of the school year.
  • In this post, you will learn some suggestions on how to build school culture at the beginning of the year.

As I write this blog post, many districts where I live in the Denver area are currently welcoming staff back into the building for teacher prep days before school starts in a week or two. Many of you will soon welcome staff back if you haven’t already.

Building Up School Culture

When you plan for welcoming staff back, you want to think about what you can do to help build the school culture, especially if you’ve had a high turnover or if many of your staff members taught remotely for most of the last school year. What worked as team-building activities up until 2019 might not be relevant now.

Think of team activities that you may want to eliminate from previous years due to the close proximity to people they don’t yet know or activities that some staff members may not yet be comfortable with, such as playing tug-of-war. How can you replace some of these team-building activities with ones that everyone, in these fluctuating times of COVID, is comfortable with?  What types of activities can you plan to especially welcome back those who were virtual teachers last year, who are now making their transition back to brick-and-mortar?

Welcoming staff back to the building is a time of renewed team-building and gives a school a chance to start off fresh and build school culture. Click To Tweet

Tips to Gauge Staff Members’ Return-to-School Comfort Level

Have you surveyed your staff prior to their return? What kinds of questions did you include? What types of activities have you included on the “getting to know you” team activities this year?

Here are some suggestions for building better staff relations and a strong team culture from the get-go.

SignUpGenius has an article with suggestions for teacher team-building activities that you may find helpful. I will suggest a few that I think are timely and relevant to your staff returning back to the building after some not seeing each other for a year and a half.

Attitude of Gratitude

This year, I would suggest each staff member name 3 things they were grateful to experience this summer. In groups, many will probably share how happy they were to see friends/family after over a year. Giving team members a chance to discuss their travel/reunions will give way to deeper conversations later about their family, culture, and background.

Six Degrees of Separation

Staff members pair up and find out how much they actually have in common! The facilitator can make a list like a BINGO grid or a “Find Someone Who.” This is similar to the activity I did at the beginning of each year. Prior to staff returning, ask teachers to complete a survey. Have them share a few things about themselves that most staff members don’t yet know. Then prepare the grid before the day of the activity.

Save Your Sanity

Have staff members share apps, daily routines, and mindfulness practices they do to keep their sanity. This will be useful especially for those who are nervous about getting back to school after a stressful 20/21 school year.

Beach Ball Team Building

Have a large beach ball with questions written on it (if previously surveyed, include these pre-written on each ball). In groups of 4-6, toss the ball around and let the teacher who receives the ball answer one of the questions. Color code the questions that come from new vs. veteran teachers, so a new teacher isn’t stuck answering a veteran teacher’s question.

Mission Statement Fun

This activity can be a way to help your staff learn the mission statement and they can make a fun “Mad Libs” twist on it. Take some of the words out of your real mission statement and have a bank of words and their parts of speech on half sheets of paper. Have teams come up with goofy alternative mission statements. After this activity is finished, have them dive deeper in the core of the real mission statement.

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Make It the Best Year Ever!

Welcoming staff back to the building is a time of renewed team-building and gives a school a chance to start off fresh and build school culture. Remember, the culture that staff has amongst themselves trickles down to the culture your students will experience. Whether you take some of these activities and use them with your staff, or have others that you’re using this year, my hope is that this year will be the best ever for your school! Please tweet some of your experiences having staff back in the building the first days and tag me.

About Dana Goodier

Dr. Dana Goodier has 20 years of experience in education. She has taught World Languages and English and worked as a middle school administrator. She completed her doctorate degree (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership early 2020. For her dissertation, she researched reasons parents were opting their students out of high-stakes testing at middle schools and how that affected the district accreditation rating. She often speaks at conferences, providing educators with techniques to minimize off-task behavior and to increase time on task. She is the host of the “Out of the Trenches” podcast, which features educators who share their stories of resiliency. Follow her on Twitter @danagoodier and visit her website at: www.danagoodier.com