There are few things that induce quite as visceral reaction as bringing up staff meetings to teachers. (If in doubt check all the someecards that have been made discussing it!) It is not that teachers are opposed to meetings, after all most meetings mean collaboration, the reaction is more to what we think happens at staff meetings: you sit and get information and then you leave. Not exactly the most inspiring use of anyone’s time.
But it doesn’t need to be like this anymore. Technology has provided us with the tools to communicate what we need without people being present to hear it thus removing most of the time usage at most traditional staff meetings. Now I am not here to say we shouldn’t have meetings, I love meetings, I am here to say they should be a better use of everyone’s time. So why not reclaim the traditional staff meeting and make it something every teacher looks forward to?
- How about skipping all of the information giving? Send out on email instead and then expect people to read it. Most email services have a function where you can see whether someone read it or not. Make it part of the job and if it isn’t read then those people can attend a special meeting where the same information is presented.
- Make it hands on professional development. With all of the new roll outs facing all of us, I would love work time to try things, discuss things and attack something as a staff. Staff meeting time would be perfect for this.
- How about making it collaboration time when possible? One of our staff meetings a month was made into collaboration time several years ago and it has been incredible. To be given the gift of time to either meet in an action team or with your grade level is truly one of the best things we can do for staff.
- Make it in the morning. After school I usually have 5 fires to put out before I go home, or it feels that way anyway. I get that contract time starts at different times, but I would rather have a short 25 minute meeting before school than a long 45 one after school. When there is a bell deadline there is a sense of urgency that simply is not present in the afternoon when we are all distracted. However, if staff meetings become awesome then perhaps we would all be more focused during them.
- Spread the responsibility. Whoever decided that principals should be the only one in charge of meetings didn’t consider all of the teacher leaders that can exist at a school or even the immense work load carried by all principals I have ever met. If you want to make it professional development, put others in charge. Let teachers teach teachers and let us work on something, not just sit and get.
- Bring in parents and students. Too often these stakeholders are left out of a school’s professional discourse. I would love to hear from parents and students how they would like to be taught something or the ideas they may have. Also, I wonder how many experts do we have among our parents that could teach us something? How often is this part of our population left out of decisions and discussions?
- Teach us something. I would to leave each staff meeting knowing something new or armed with a new idea to try in my room. But we need time to share those ideas, we need time to try new things and figure them out. Why not make the staff meeting a central component of what we should be learning?
What did I miss?
I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.