We’ve all sat in those meetings wondering why on earth we are still debating what color to paint the staff restroom. So maybe not that exact debate, but something equally inconsequential in the lives of students and staff. I remember going to monthly whole-staff meetings as a classroom teacher. They would usually begin with housekeeping items, then sometimes there would be an article to read and discuss. Other times there would be data to analyze. But at the end of the meeting, we never really did anything with that information. I don’t remember ever leaving a single one energized, or feeling like what I just did was worthwhile. And I taught for fourteen years. That’s a lot of time that could’ve been spent in better ways.
As a district administrator, the meetings were more frequent, and much longer in duration. The difference was that they were conducted around a conference table and we had the agenda about a week prior to the meeting in a Google doc so we could add to the agenda. Although there were still times that I felt disconnected, most of these meetings were more purposeful. Since each administrator had an equal voice at the table, we were more involved in the process.
Now, as a full-time consultant, my meetings look vastly different. The majority of my work occurs with educators from states all over the country. Our meetings are conducted by phone, video conference, and sometimes just a shared Google doc. These are the most streamlined and effective meetings I’ve ever been a part of.
So, how can you change your delivery to make staff meetings something people actually look forward to and benefit from? Let’s look at these three key points:
- The Power of the Written Word – Share any written information possible prior to the meeting. Share articles to read, data to review, policies to peruse/refine, and upcoming events via email and shared drives. You can use a learning management system to post resources, links, videos, and other instructional material. Pose discussion questions which the teachers can respond to and/or assignments for specific tasks the teachers need to complete and submit. Social media forums are also great platforms to encourage discussion and share articles and videos. I even know principals who have conducted entire staff meetings through the use of hashtags on Twitter. It’s a great way to expose teachers to this forum.
- The Power of Video Conferencing – Not all meetings have to be face-to-face. Save time driving all over the district by holding the meetings via Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, Adobe Connect…you get the idea. These are especially nice for administrator meetings, committee meetings that are district-wide, initial interviews with potential employees, and of course, meeting with peers who are not local.
- The Power of Video Recording – Recording a message that isn’t intended to be interactive is a great way to disseminate announcements, directions on how to do something new, or go over handbook policies. I love using Screencastify for this. It’s easy to use and works on any computer. Step one: Plan your vision for the meeting. Step two: Create a Google Slides presentation with the information you would cover during a meeting. Step three: Use Screencastify to record your presentation. Step four: Easily upload to Google Drive or YouTube, or share directly on Google Classroom (or your compatible LMS). Step five: Share the video with your staff prior to (or in place of) a face-to-face meeting.
By flipping your staff meetings, the actual face-to-face time becomes a much more authentic use of that time together. I’m a big believer in modeling what we are expecting to see in the classroom. If we are working to personalize instruction for our students, then we need to personalize learning for the teachers, as well. Planning for more efficient use of that meeting time allows for this to take shape. Personalized professional learning will:
- Connect educators with each other and to PLNs
- Help teachers reflect on their own practice
- Provide educators access to new strategies, techniques, and tools.
- Be on-demand, 24/7
- Organically differentiate for a range of levels of readiness and expertise
- Curate content, so teachers can more easily find aligned content and ideas
- Encourage teachers to create content-specific best practices
Meeting time can become Genius Hour for Teachers!
In order to foster this authentic use of meeting time, we need to empower teachers to drive their own learning. Show them how to build and tap into global networks of learning through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and blogs. These are valuable resources that can help them with that anytime/anywhere type of learning we want to nurture.
The leaders set the tone for a culture of innovation. They need to model innovative thinking, learning, and practice in their everyday lives. They need to be effective communicators with their teachers, and a cheerleader for change. Why not start with rethinking staff meetings?