all about the bump: promoting positive adult culture in schools

The post that appears below is the original draft I submitted to Edutopia, an amazing website of all things education! (To all my readers in schools, it is highly valuable and worth following.)

Here is the link to the edited post as it appeared on Edutopia.


I cannot count the number of times I have heard a colleague advise a student to “do what makes you happy.” Yet ironically, I wonder often how many teachers are happy in their jobs. Research indicates job satisfaction was at a 25 year low in 2012, turnover trends are alarmingly high and costly, and morale is consistently demeaned by societal and political commentary. Moreover, who needs statistics? Just look around during a staff meeting to see the weight educators carry.

In an effort to counter these patterns, stakeholders need to put into place systems of support for each other. Even better when those support systems are grassroots efforts instead of mandated. One such way I have done this for the past several years is through the “Hump Day Bump,” which is a weekly compilation of staff-to-staff notes of gratitude and compliments emailed to staff each Wednesday. I started the “Hump Day Bump” as a way to spread much needed positivity in my first urban school. Poverty, violence, and limited resources overwhelmed the students. A sense of defeat pervaded the staff, compounded by low scores, exacting evaluations, divisive cliques and grueling hours. Internal and external pressures strained the tensions already present between administration and staff. The “Bump” gave all staff the chance to read good news in their inboxes, observe good things in each other, and share those in a non-threatening medium.

However, the “Hump Day Bump” is not just a tool to counter pervasive negativity in our field. It is also a way to build capacity. First and foremost, a viable adult culture based on mutual respect is critical to a school’s success. It is nearly impossible as an educator running on empty to give the absolute best to students; a healthy adult culture helps keep our tanks full. Additionally, hearing affirmation for what part of our pedagogy and professionalism is effective boosts teacher efficacy, another critical component to both the happiness of teachers as well as the achievement of students. Most importantly, to capitalize on the aforementioned benefits, our field is in desperate need of teachers who are in it for the long run. A revolving door of teachers benefits no one: neither students nor schools. Teachers who feel valued for their contributions are more likely to stick around; I know I am.

If you’re looking to implement your own “Hump Day Bump,” here are some easy-to-follow steps:

Plan and send your inaugural “Hump Day Bump.”  (Or pick a different name; I have a colleague who calls it the “Bump-Ups.”)

  • In your email system, set up two folders: one titled “Fishing” and one titled “Hump Day Bumps.”
  • Pick a small group of colleagues across a variety of configurations with whom you already collaborate frequently. Send them an email that describes how and why you plan to implement the “Hump Day Bump.”Ask them for their notes of compliments and/or gratitude for their peers. I call this the “Fishing” email.
  • As your colleagues respond, keep all those emails in your “Fishing” folder.
  • When you have some time (it usually takes between 10-30 minutes depending on the quantity of “bumps”), copy and paste all fishing responses into the body of an email. Format them so names stand out and they are bulleted for easy access. Delete emails as you copy and paste for organizational purposes.
  • Send your inaugural “Hump Day Bump” to the full staff. It is best to use BCC for this. Give an overview of what it is, why it matters, and how you’ll approach it each week.

Set a routine.

  • I usually send “Fishing” emails on Friday for the following week’s “Bump.” If I don’t get adequate responses, I will send a reminder on Monday or Tuesday.
  • Either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, I synthesize those “bumps” into an email as I did for the inaugural edition.
  • Email out on Wednesdays. I typically end each “Hump Day Bump” with a call for shout-outs for next week’s “Bump,” as well as some kind of funny image, meme, or video.
  • Keep all “Hump Day Bumps” in your designated folder.

Make it work for you! Here are some modifications and precautions.

  • Include students as recipients or authors of “bumps.”
  • Start a “Bump” activity in your classroom.
  • Use a verbal version to start collaborative meetings.
  • Elicit specific “bumps” for certain educational holidays e.g. Secretary Appreciation Day.
  • Keep track of who is not receiving “bumps.” Reach out directly to their colleagues for something to add in the next edition. If there is a downside to the “Bump,” it is that it has the potential to highlight those staff typically highlighted and ignore those typically ignored. Tracking involvement can help mitigate this.

Have any other modification and/or implementation ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Eleven years and four schools later, the “Hump Day Bump” is still going strong. In fact, not only have I carried it to all my schools, but so have several of my colleagues. The “Hump Day Bump” has now spread beyond state and continent borders! I hope now it can provide some positivity in your schools.


To see my first post on Edutopia about Socratic seminars, follow this link.

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