9 Ideas to Start This School Year Off Right

Ideas that take very little to do a whole lot.

Back to School Background with line art icons
If you were shocked to see back-to-school displays “suddenly” pop up everywhere, you are not alone. The summer flew by, and August has appeared as if by magic. It’s not too late to think out of the box in terms of welcoming faculty, students, and families back into the building. Spark your imagination with a few tips from amazing school leaders on Twitter. Here are some fun, relationship-first ways to kick off your school year!

1. Create custom postcards for your staff.

Melissa Kartsimas (@teachermelissa) had the amazing idea of making a custom postcard for her faculty. She welcomed teachers back with sweet, personal messages that demonstrate care and consideration. This is definitely a principal who builds strong relationships!

2. Makeover your office.

Let’s face it. It’s your office, but you share this space with the entire school community. According to Forbes, your office has the potential to set the tone for the culture in your school. Principal Mandy Ellis (@mandyeellis) upped her office game with a classy, fun reboot that creates a welcoming space for all.

3. Read welcome letters to your students.

Most principals send beginning-of-the-year letters to students and families, but principal Claire Giardino (@cgiardino3) took it a step further. In her letter, she included a QR code that can be scanned so kids can hear her read the letter personally. These are the little details that build a great community!

4. Create a Door of Distinction.

We all know how powerful visuals can be in a school. What we choose to display becomes the wallpaper in student’s lives, so why not turn it up a notch? At principal Tonya Hilburn’s (@principal_PPE) school, they created a Door of Distinction for kids to sign after getting positive referrals. They painted the door with chalkboard paint so kids could sign it with colorful chalk. It’s a motivating and colorful way to spice up your hallway!

5. Build a legacy wall.

Teacher Michael Matera (@mrmatera) built a legacy wall in his classroom for students to report academic and nonacademic achievements they are proud of. The wall creates a visual memory book for classrooms and communities to remember the awesome things they did. What a great idea!

6. Decorate the halls (and stairs).

Principal Amy Bartlett (@thebartletts) just made us want to completely rethink staircases! What a great way to think about making spaces fun and educational!

7. Make the first day about school culture.

The beginning of the year is a vital time to set the groundwork for school culture. Principal Greg Moffitt’s (@greg_moffitt) goal is to reframe first day conversations about rules as an opportunity to coach kindness. Rather than diving right into schoolwork, he organizes an assembly to go over how to treat each other. Kids are hearing on day one how to treat each other while they are in school.

8. Throw a block party!

Got a giant meet and greet to run? Why not make it a block party? We love this idea from curriculum resource specialist Lauren McGinnis (@mcginnis815). Everyone loves a block party! Don’t forget the DJ!

9. Pick up cheap, useful gifts for your staff.

This time of year, it can be cheap and easy to pick up useful things to gift faculty. Middle school counselor Stephanie Filio (@steffschoolcoun) understands that teachers never say no to free office supplies!


You don’t have to make huge gestures to build school culture. Small, thoughtful details can make a big difference. It’s these details that make a school unique and a place where everyone feels like they have agency. Invest in finding a way to welcome teachers, parents, and students back to the building and prepare yourself for an amazing year!

Join the great conversations going on about school leadership in our Facebook groups at Principal Life and High School Principal Life.

Plus, check out our beginning-of-the-year checklist for principals.