Lisa Fisher

Celebrating Milestones

Discussion created by Lisa Fisher on Feb 27, 2017

Recently I raced in the Portland Half Marathon. To prepare for the race, I laid out my complete training plan and diligently ran my miles every day. I even signed up for some shorter training races to get ready for the big day. After the race, I proudly celebrated my achievement for completing the race and meeting my goal. I happened to mention this to a friend later, who remarked, “How did you celebrate the 10K race? How about the 5K?” In fact, I hadn’t celebrated. To me the goal was the half marathon, and so I overlooked the smaller victories that I was achieving along the way.


Life is busy, and as a school administrator it’s easy to adopt an “eyes on the prize” mentality. This is especially relevant if you find yourself implementing change in the midst of a new school initiative. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in meeting our measurable goals and our implementation strategies that we lose sight of what’s important: working together towards a common goal and celebrating together along the way.


Our education initiatives and the decisions we make on a daily basis have a meaningful and sometimes immediate impact on our students and how they learn. Because of this, you may find yourself constantly collecting and evaluating information in order to inform your vision for the future and evaluate long-term successes. However, at this constant speed, how often do you stop to celebrate the smaller milestones and short-term wins?


As a leader for change, celebrating milestones can:


  • give your team encouragement to continue in the right direction
  • cause others to look favorably upon your project
  • help to sustain and support successful change implementation


Milestone celebrations should be seen throughout your school and can be communicated and shared with others. We all like to be recognized for the good work we’re doing, especially when it’s improving education outcomes for our students. Here’s a few unconventional ways to celebrate the small wins:


The Jar of Awesome

At the end of each day, take a minute to jot down one “small win” that you observed, especially as it relates to a larger collective goal, and put it in a jar. During weekly staff meetings, pull out and read a few notes from the jar. Not only does this recognize the good work that teachers do every day, but it also shows your staff how they are making progress towards a larger milestone.


Watch It Add Up

Post small, measurable milestones in a place where all staff members can see them with the larger goal near the top. Encourage your staff to jot down any “small wins” on a sticky note and place it on the board. Watch how the small wins grow and literally “add up” to the larger milestone. This serves as a great visual reminder that you’re all working collectively towards a larger goal, and lets your team know that they’re on the right track.


Every once in awhile I am reminded that a little public recognition, an “at-a-boy” or a “pat on the back,” can mean a lot to those of us who are motivated by our mission. Even a simple “thank you” can make a difference.


How do you recognize and celebrate short-term wins? Engage with your colleagues and share your ideas below.