Be the change, being a teacher, motivation, principals, reflection

Dear Administrators, Please Rescue the Staff Meeting

image from someecards

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.

20 thoughts on “Dear Administrators, Please Rescue the Staff Meeting”

  1. I honestly wouldn’t want students or parents in a meeting. They’re internal meetings that often provide information that is either at an early stage of development or is actually confidential to a certain degree. “Letting in the stakeholders” might complicate things more and will lead to the sort of logjam where things don’t get done because there are too many voices making too much noise.

    We actually also need to reduce the amount of PD in a monthly staff meeting and save it for set-aside inservice days. I have never found that PD during a monthly staff meeting is ever effective. Most teachers are there reluctantly and annoyed that they are spending extra time to do something they don’t want to do. Having it before school will result in, “I came in early for THIS?” and having it after school will have people checking their watches. Sure, people attend PD on set-aside days reluctantly, but at least it’s a contract day that is set aside and isn’t asking for extra time.

  2. Hi Tom, Thank you for your reply (and a fast one at that!). I do think there are meetings where students and parents can be there, not all of them, just like every single one of our meetings shouldn’t be the same. I do disagree with you, I would much rather have PD than just be annoyed at a staff meeting, but perhaps that is just me. I feel that if we are there we may as well get the most out of it.

    1. But that implies that we’re putting PD in a meeting that we’re having because we have to have a meeting. Why do we have to have the meeting in the first place if there’s nothing pressing to talk about?

      1. Ah, but I work in a district where the meeting is mandated by contract, so there is no way to not have it. Thus I would rather make it a meaningful experience, I am always up for learning something.

  3. I love your ideas Pernille! The only one that I really disagree with is “having a meeting in the morning.” Please don’t get me wrong. I’m usually at the school by 6:30, and I don’t start teaching until 9:00, so this has nothing to do with the rush. The problem is that meetings make my head spin. Sometimes they put me in a bad mood. If they’re before school, they usually go straight until the bell, and I hate that rushed feeling as I run off to class to greet kids, when my thoughts are still back on the meeting! So while I may be tired at the end of the day, I’ll be much happier having a meeting and knowing that my thoughts can be there and not on the students that I’ll be meeting in just a few minutes.

    I’m curious to hear what others have to say about this though!

  4. Yes. Yes. YES! Think of the time teachers put into creating engaging lessons and units. Then we go to staff meetings where we see the opposite if best practice unfold before us, and we’re the victims. How about “staff-centered” staff meetings? Thank you for the great post!

  5. You are right about email. Most faculties are so big that the meetings often feature those in back grousing as the principal drones on. I support using the time for PD but not the large group variety. Small groups make more sense, and whatever they do should be part of ongoing activities that also take place during common planning time. There is also no reason for every group to meet at the same time. There is something to be said for getting staff together to socialize. Monthly get togethers with food was a big hit when I was principal. I also encouraged teachers to mix with people they didn’t work with directly.

  6. Wow! You must be lucky to have 45 minute staff meetings!!! Ours were almost always an hour and a half! Sometimes they were longer, and in rare instances we got to leave a few minutes early, but I can only imagine the wonder of a 45 minute staff meeting!
    I’m loving this discussion! It’s funny- this is the first time I read your blog, and I assumed I was reading the blog of an administrator! So I was quite surprised when I read at the bottom that you were a teacher!
    By the way, I agree with most of what you said! Nice article! But will your administrators be okay with you writing about them?
    Heidi Butkus

  7. Very well said. I for one love the idea of having students attend trainings or lead them. I work a high school and the administration is working to make staff meeting time more collaborative and self directed. We recently did a Fed Ex Day (can’t remember who on twitter started that sort of thing) and it was pretty well received by staff.

    We are a 1:1 iPad school and would love to have a student led, app Speed Dating staff meeting where students led discussions about apps that they use to help them be successful. How powerful for a HS student to be able to teach their teachers and help them understand how to help students be more successful!

    Great job!

  8. Pernille – I LOVED your blog. It was spot on. Having sat through at least 1000 hours of school meetings (makes me shudder) I wish a little of that time had reflected your suggestions. My biggest beef as you point out is how much time is wasted just passing on information that was already sent in a email. If more administrators allowed their teachers to teach their fellow faculty members, the quality of instruction would go through the roof.

    Have a great weekend!

  9. I’ve turned meetings into ‘workshops’. Much of what we do is an analysis of student work. Nameless papers are analysed:
    – What do you see?
    – What does this student do well?
    – What is the next step for this student?
    – What patterns do we see in the work of all the students?
    – What does this mean for planning and instruction?

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