Educational Leadership

NCAA March Madness- Bringing Together Your Staff

March Madness is here!
It has been reported that “distracted employees cost businesses about $4 billion per year” ( I buy into this statistic because for the next few weeks, I will be glued to ESPN, checking the updates, and constantly questioning the decisions I have made on my bracket. I am definitely part of the problem.
Many would argue that if brought into schools, the lack of productivity could be disastrous for student achievement. If teachers are focusing on their brackets, they are not focusing on their lessons. This means students will not be taught and may not learn.
So then why would I suggest that March Madness belongs in schools if clearly there are negative effects?
While I can see why people would be hesitant to promote March Madness in schools, potential gains are being overlooked. I feel that bringing March Madness into schools has a huge upside-improved school climate.
School climate can be defined as “the quality and character of school life. School climate is based on patterns of students’, parents’ and school personnel’s experience of school life and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures” ( To explain it simply, how people feel about the school. For sake of my argument, I will be focusing on the “interpersonal relationships” in “school personnel’s experience of school life.”
March Madness has the potential to improve school climate by bringing the group together around a common activity. People who otherwise do not have reason to talk to each other engage in banter about their wins and losses on their bracket. It can help to create interpersonal relationships between staff members that otherwise would have never been formed.
My current school is a good case study  to illustrate this point, but before I continue, I need to give you a little background on my current school. Our building has 6-8 floors (depending on the wing you are in) with about 50 teachers teaching 1-12. The school does not have a common teacher’s room and most teachers spend their working hours exclusively in their classrooms. What does this mean? It means that you could work in this school and possibly go an entire year without ever seeing a colleague, or in other words, no interpersonal relationships.
We are in our fourth year of doing March Madness brackets at our school, and I have seen how it fosters interpersonal relationships among staff. Junior high art teachers helping elementary school teachers create their bracket. Administrators beginning discussions with a bracket buster rather than a school complaint. Everyone coming together to celebrate the best bracket at the end of the tournament. March Madness has made the school more personable and pleasant, simply with a piece of paper with the names of 64 teams.
There is a clear and valid argument that March Madness could affect classroom instruction for a few weeks. However, could the improvement in school climate translate to larger gains in student achievement over the long term?
I think so. And on that, good luck with your bracket!

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