Daniel Bauer

Jul 14, 2021

4 min read

How to plan an amazing school retreat

Ralph Ravi Kayden on Unsplash

The other day I shared a case study on one of my favorite Ruckus Makers, Sarah and how her school grew 11 points, even during a pandemic.

Again, excellent job Sarah. You inspire me!

Part of that story was that during this week’s coaching call we unpacked how to create a REMARKABLE retreat experience for her staff.

You see … it was Sarah’s retreat experience year’s ago that sealed her fate at her current school.

Because of the impact of the retreat, Sarah was “all in” and committed to going above and beyond at VBE to help her student be a success.

In today’s post, I want to share two ideas that Sarah plans to implement to make her retreat a success.


When I was in Scotland, my neighbors used to drag me to “The Western Baths Club” for monthly trivia.

In the USA, I can hold my own during trivia. When I was in the UK, I was terrible because I didn’t have the same experience and knowledge of Britain.

But in both experiences I had so much fun.

The point of trivia is to compete, be with friends, and share a bunch of laughs.

So that makes creating a trivia experience during a retreat as a real winner for an activity.

During our coaching session we jammed on a few categories that Sarah could create for her staff. Here are a few ideas we discussed:

  • A category for school facts and history
  • Florida facts and history (where her school is located)
  • Staff fun facts
  • Education category
  • Misc. category

With the categories created, now all Sarah has to do is create some great questions.

She can also leverage her staff to have them submit “fun facts” about themselves in order to create some unique questions.

The last part of this trivia idea we discussed was creating the right atmosphere.

The USA can be a bit too conservative and uptight at times, so Sarah can’t use alcohol at the retreat …

But she could use root beer or sparkling juice.

She could still also put “pub mix” for teams to snack on during the game.

And if Sarah took action on my “Getting to Know You” survey questions, then she already knows everyone’s absolute favorite song, and can build a school playlist to DJ the event between questions too.

This is money in the bank.

Her staff will LOVE this team building activity.

But school is not fun and games 100% of the time, which brings us to one other activity we discussed for the retreat.


“For a [school] to be truly [student and staff] focused, it needs to ignore what people say. Instead it needs to concentrate on what people feel.”

-Rory Sutherland

Now a retreat can’t be all fun and games.

Going off-site is a tremendous opportunity to do some important work that there never seems to be enough time for during the daily cadence of school.

So I asked Sarah, “How do you want your people to feel when they leave the retreat?”

She said, “Empowered. I want them to connect what drives them to be an educator to their daily work.”

It’s easy for that to get lost once the school year starts.

So in collaboration with Sarah, we decided that mapping out and sharing the team’s personal core values would be a wise investment of time.

I teach organizational values all the time. I call them sticky core values.

I also teach personal core values.

Mine are:

  • Turning Pro
  • Ripple Effect
  • Purple Cow
  • Forest from the trees
  • The Sponge that Scales

All of my values create curiosity.

At first glance, they inspire wonder. What the heck is a “Sponge that Scales?”

And that’s the point.

For values at any level to be deeply meaningful, they need to be sticky.

What makes a sticky core value?

  • They are weird.
  • Creative.
  • Fun.
  • Paint a picture.
  • And tell a story …

So Sarah and I discussed how to facilitate an activity where her team creates their personal values and then shares them with each other.

I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

Keep Making a Ruckus,


PS … Are you designing beginning of the year experiences to be REMARKABLE?

If not, why not?

REMARKABLE experiences are just one way to create a WORLD CLASS CULTURE.

Ready to Level Up?

Take a negative culture and turn it around, or take a good culture to great by joining the The Principal Success Path™.

Apply today!