In Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, she shares a story of a leader within the US Army that has spoken about the challenges her soldiers face at different times during their tour of duty. While I am not equating risking your life to defend our country with teaching each day, I do believe that both are at their best when members of either community understand their interdependence on one another. The story concludes with the idea that often when we are struggling the most, and morale may be low, the real culprit may be that we are lonely.
If you think about it, February can seem to isolate us as we are stuck inside with our students, or stuck inside with Netflix. The human connection that is so inherent in our daily work can feel strained or frayed or simply absent. So how do we defeat loneliness when we are on campus with, sometimes, 3000 other people.
This year I have established the Mad Cool Awards. Focused on recognizing innovative work that is happening on campus, adults have the chance to recognize really cool stuff that is happening on their campus. Realizing that innovation is simply taking something that already exists and making it better, I ask them to complete a Google Form that asks just a few simple questions. And I consistently include the link to this form at the beginning of meetings and as an extra piece every so often within an email.
The next step is to use Autocrat as an Add-On to Google Forms. Essentially this allows you to mail merge the responses from the form in to a Google Doc. However, as I learned, there must be a template that you have in place for Autocrat to use.
Here is a video that I used for how to create your own custom template within Google Doc Click Here. Once the template is created then you will have it available each time you run your awards. Now you can use Autocrat to generate the docs using the template. I found this video very helpful Using Autocrat with Google Forms.
Though the Google Form remains live at all times, I run the Mad Cool Awards once a month. After generating the Mad Cool Certificates, I do give a quick glance over to ensure the spelling is good and the grammar works within the template. This takes some time however I don’t want either the nominee or nominator to see an unintended error. Once that is all set, then I print and prepare to deliver the awards. Now you can do this a few ways. Presenting at a faculty meeting is likely most common though I have shied away from that. Instead I take one or two other leaders with me to the innovators classroom and interrupt with great news. I tell the kids about what a Mad Cool Award is and that we are here to give one to their teacher. I read the wonderful words to the recipient and each time applause has broken out at the end. We then take a picture and spread the word through all of our social media channels and communication tools.
I don’t think this necessary solves the doldrums that seem to come every year around this time. However I do believe that it reminds others of the power we have each day to change lives. And not just the lives of children. It’s a form of connection that helps us feel a little less lonely, maybe a little more connected. And feeling connected to others is 100% Mad Cool Stuff!