Staff Holiday Parties Teachers Will Actually Enjoy

I have a confession. I know it is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but right now I’m feeling…well…tired. And I know I’m not alone.

Does the following scenario sound familiar to you? My students are distracted, and some, for whom the holidays don’t necessarily hold happy memories, are struggling emotionally. And those struggles are being unloaded on me and other teachers who are safe, supportive people in their lives.

I’ve been running around to holiday parties and breakfasts with Santa and cookie exchanges and book fairs while trying to keep up with lesson planning and grading assignment so my progress reports will be ready this week.

I really want to be in the holiday spirit. I do. And I will be in a few weeks, once break starts. But right now I’m feeling a bit like the Grinch.

So, our faculty holiday lunch is on Friday. What kind of party do I really need right now? One that doesn’t deplete more of my 3 most precious resources: time, money, and energy.

With that goal in mind, I’ve created a list of ideas for a holiday party teachers will appreciate and enjoy!

Keep Decorations Simple & Voluntary

I have another confession: I’m not a crafty person. I do not have a Pinterest-worthy classroom. And I definitely don’t have the time or talent to help turn the faculty lounge into the North Pole. Any decorations for a staff holiday party need to be simple, fun, and left to those staff members that genuinely enjoy creating them. Below are three easy decorating ideas that a December-fatigued teacher can get behind:

No Cooking Required

Please, please, no potluck parties! I’m begging you. I’m totally fine with chipping in money towards a catered holiday lunch if my administrators don’t have enough in the budget. Or you could serve tapas or some modest appetizers rather than a full meal. As long as I’m not told to cook or bake one more thing right now, I’m happy! If some of my colleagues really want to make their special holiday treats to share, awesome! It just shouldn’t be mandatory.

Be Creative with Gifts & Prizes

Again, budgets are tight in most schools and in most teachers’ homes, which is why gifts or door prizes need to be cheap. But cheap doesn’t have to mean small items no one really wants or needs (I have enough scented votive candles to last for years). How about administrators giving away an hour of free subbing? Or covering lunch duties? Or one month of preferred parking in the front of the teachers’ lot? Those are all FREE gifts, and I’d happily accept any one of them in a skinny minute.

Play Games with Everyone in Mind

I definitely identify as an introvert (if that wasn’t evident from some of what I’ve already written). The idea of participating in a white elephant where I need to open a present while the whole faculty watches and then potentially steal a present from a colleague gives me hives. I just don’t like the attention, and I don’t want to steal someone’s present! That’s un-Christmas-like conduct, isn’t it?! I also don’t want to have to do any type of role playing or sing holiday songs in front of others (those things happen only in the safety of my car when I’m alone). So any holiday party games need to be mindful of all personality types. Below are three inclusive game options that require minimal set-up time and supplies:

Celebrate the True Meaning of the Season

The holidays are really about showing others we care and seeing the good in the world. How could we incorporate these things in our holiday party? What if, rather than buying a $10 present, everyone gave $10 and all the money was donated to a charity of the faculty’s choice?

Or what if a “wish box” was left in the faculty lounge where teachers could write wishes for the school in the upcoming year. Admins could share the wishes at the party. Student wishes for the school could be incorporated into this activity too. These wishes could turn into action items in the New Year.

Similarly, we could create a “Blessings Box” where faculty or students could write about people who have been blessings to them during the school year. Admin could again share at the holiday party or during morning announcements. What a wonderful way to show others how much we care and celebrate the good in our lives!


Megan Panek is a secondary Language Arts teacher and instructional coach. She currently teaches and coaches at a career and technical education (CTE) center in Virginia and believes in CTE with all her heart. She considers herself a life-long learner and is always looking to improve her craft.”

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