How to Build Staff Morale One Bathroom Makeover at a Time

decorated staff bathroom

Have you ever considered how you and your students can beautify the school while improving staff morale? I’m pretty sure my National Art Honor Society students figured it out, and the results are beyond awesome!

A Spark of Inspiration

A few years ago, I entered a boring, stark faculty bathroom having one of those days. You know, the kind where you feel overworked, underpaid, and micromanaged. My frustration level was at an all-time high.

I started to think about what might brighten my day, and a vision of a mural on this boring bathroom wall popped into my head. I ran back to my class, grabbed a few of my art kiddos, and rushed them down to the faculty bathroom.

I opened the door and asked, “Well…what do you think?” Their response? “We think this is a very boring, very stark faculty bathroom.” And I exclaimed, “EXACTLY!”

The Process Begins

decorated staff bathroom

The brainstorming began immediately. As my students continued to stare at the plain white walls, they, too, began to think of the walls as large blank canvasses. While they were thinking out loud, they also began to consider the ceiling and the door. Before I knew it, they were running back to the art room to sketch out ideas and turn this boring space into a large inspirational masterpiece!

Setting a Goal, Gathering Info, and Getting Started

The students decided their goal was to remind teachers their jobs were to open the minds of their students. They hoped teachers would leave the restroom inspired and feeling a little bit happier than when they entered.

Students came up with ideas by interviewing several of the staff members who used the restrooms. They worked together to come up with images that would be lovely to look at and evoke feelings of joy.

The following week, these students gathered a group of National Art Honor Society students together and began to sketch out the approved designs on the bathroom walls. It was really that simple.

If you’d like to try something similar in your school, simply follow the steps below!

decorated staff bathroom

1. Plan

Get students excited about the possibilities of creating a joyful space. Then, make sure you get approval from your administration to start the project. Let them know if you plan to paint just the walls or the ceilings and doors as well.

Have students brainstorm the imagery and text to create the collaborative mural. Have them include the staff who will patronize the bathrooms. You might even want to call them the “clients.”

Have students determine where they will paint to ensure the collaborative imagery comes together to make a unified composition.

2. Prep

Have students sketch out the imagery on the walls. Then, make sure you protect all surfaces that won’t be painted. Tape edges and bring in drop cloths to keep things tidy.

Have students create a working map of the times they can work on the project. My students were able to find time after school and occasionally during their lunch hour. Be sure to notify your staff of the times the bathroom will be unavailable.

3. Paint

Students should consider their color palette and the brushes they will need. Once they are ready to go, have students begin painting the walls. Encourage them to consider negative space and detail work.

The Results

I watched my students put this project together and take complete ownership of their learning. I was so excited to see them push their creativity. They even incorporated techniques from an impasto painting unit we had just finished in the classroom.

But perhaps the most exciting part was the reaction of the staff. Everyone absolutely fell in love with the mural imagery and text. They loved the back of the door reminding them they were blessed to “Open the Doors of Their Student’s Futures” as well as the other uplifting quotes throughout the space.

decorated staff bathroom

It was such a success, the administration asked us to keep it going, so we moved right onto the next bathroom!

These murals ended up becoming an annual part of our NAHS activities. Students would come in year after year and add imagery or text to existing murals, hang painted stars from the ceiling, and more. Our goal was to hit every faculty bathroom in the school.

This is just one more way to showcase how undeniably valuable the arts are in each school building. Plus, it’s a creative way to help avoid that dreaded teacher burnout! Give it a try. I can’t wait to see what your students come up with!

How does your art department help to build staff morale at your school?

Have you completed school murals with your students?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Debi West

Debi West is one of AOEU’s adjunct instructors and a former AOEU Writer and NBCT art educator. She loves sharing with others and enthusiastically stands behind her motto, “Together we ART better!”

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