"One goal of a staff meeting is to get teachers excited about teaching the next day." Todd Whitaker
As more focus is placed on critical thinking and content literacy comprehension, administrators are asking how to best utilize their staff and PLC meeting time so the emphasis is on instruction and best practices.
In years past, staff meetings have notoriously been used to collectively discuss the school fundraiser or to subject colleagues to "death by bullet point" presentations. Experience has taught us that spending precious staff meeting time reading what could have been sent out in a memo is a detrimental and wasteful practice that must end.
Here are 20 ways to increase collaboration and focus school culture on best instructional practices, but most importantly, get teachers excited about teaching:
*Establish the idea that there is no room for negativity at a staff meeting-too much is at stake for negativity to hijack a meeting. If there is a complaint/concern, meet privately with those who can make a change to remedy the situation and bring at least one solution to the private meeting.
*Start meetings with a focus on the positive-have teachers share 1-2 positive student outcomes or experiences with each other to start the meeting off on the right foot and to remind each other why we chose this sometimes crazy, exhausting, frustrating, but wonderful profession.
*Devote a chunk of time in each meeting to best instructional practices by having 1-2 teachers share a strategy that has made a difference in their instruction. Then provide teachers time to discuss the practice/s and how to utilize them in their own classes.
*Blog study-have teachers choose an educational blog to read and then share/debate with a partner some of the topics. Some to consider are: jimmycasas.blogspot.com, effectiveteachingpd.com, edunators.com, tomwhitby.wordpress.com, coolcatteacher.com, classtechtips.com, thenerdyteacher.com, esheninger.blogspot.com, edudemic.com, edutopia.org, georgecouros.ca/blog, etc.
*Identify an outcome/objective for the meeting-stay focused and direct conversations to meet the objective.
*Share child neuroscience ideas-the young brain is fascinating and very different from the adult brain. Have each educator research and share 1 neuroscience fact and put all facts on a chart in the staff room as a reminder of the intricacies of the young brain and the implications for classroom instruction.
*Utilize Twitter-educators should be on Twitter! Devote 10-15 minutes at meetings for everyone to read a few educational articles on Twitter and then share them with others. Also, create a hashtag for your staff meeting time for teachers to post their (positive) ideas to throughout the discussion, this is called "backchanneling."
*Provide time for teachers to fill out positive postcards to send home to parents and then collect them and mail home.
*"Flip" your meetings-provide teachers with 3-4 educational videos to choose from before the meeting, utilizing a site such as Teaching Channel (full of Common Core classroom videos and reflection questions); they choose one video to view before the meeting, then during the meeting teachers get into groups based on which video they chose, and analyze ideas from the video. Or skip the "meeting" all together and teachers can share what they learned on a google doc or edmodo.
*Reflection-the best educators are reflective educators. Ask teachers to video 3 short segments of their own instruction and then analyze their lessons with a partner at the meeting using these questions as a guide (the partner does not need to view the videos):
1. What was the content objective of the lesson? (What info did the students need to learn?)
2. What was the skills objective? (What critical thinking skills were the students' using/developing?)
3. What did the students do to meet both objectives? (What strategies/tasks were completed by the students?)
4. What is one change you would make to the lesson if you retaught it?
*Research-have teachers choose one educational topic to research, complete a 3-2-1 (3 facts learned, 2 comments/connections, 1 question) regarding what they learned during their research, and have them bring in 2-3 articles about their chosen topic to discuss/share with others.
*Book Club-have staff choose a book to conduct a book study around-one chapter for each month. Some great ones to use: When Kids Can't Read, Focus, Teach Like a Pirate, Reading & Writing Info Text in the Primary Grades, The Art & Science of Teaching, Readicide, Ignite, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Mindset, or my book titled Game Changers, etc.
*Have departments or grade levels take charge of a meeting to share the great things they are doing to reach & teach kids.
*Determine an instructional focus such as note-taking or engagement and have teachers bring ideas to share with others.
*Share student work-bring in a few student writing samples (a high, medium and low student example works best) and the scoring rubric and share with a partner to determine if the rubric has inter-rater reliability and brainstorm the types of feedback that would benefit each student.
*Have students (yes, invite students to your meeting) share Project Based Learning (PBLs) examples and their outcomes.
*Watch and discuss a TED talk.
*Have an "appy" hour or "tech-talk" devoted to sharing and practicing a few of the effective tech tools on campus.
*“Speed Geek” your meeting~participants engage in an activity similar to “Speed Dating” but with technology or instructional strategies. Each of 7 students and/or teachers prepares a 5-7 minute presentation around a tech tool or instructional strategy that increases student learning, and small groups of teachers rotate through each group every 5-7 minutes. This is such a powerful way to connect kids and teachers to new tools and learning!
*End meetings with "appreciations." Volunteers share 1-2 things they appreciate about someone else on staff (someone who volunteered at the fundraiser, a coach who always encourages kids, a teacher who hosts after-school tutorial, etc.).
It has been said that once teachers start teaching, we become the most uneducated of professionals about our own profession, failing to research and implement the cutting-edge best practices that make the difference in student engagement and learning. We can't use 20th century practices with our 21st century students.
In order to encourage and even demand curiosity, creativity, learning, sharing and growing in our students, we must model those traits within our own profession; a staff meeting is the perfect time to cultivate these skills within and among our colleagues.
Staff meetings are precious and help to establish the culture of the school. There is a time and place for a short PowerPoint or collective discussion about the upcoming fundraiser, but consider using a "Google Doc" to get input ahead of time so an hour is not devoted to brainstorming such time-consuming topics.
The important idea here is that educators need to have buy-in in order for meetings to be positive and productive. Buy-in comes from choice and also from relevance; teachers want to share and learn ideas that they can take back to their classroom. Staff or PLC meetings that are focused on the school's mission: how to best prepare and support students (and teachers) for the demands of the 21st century, is an effective way to engage and focus everyone in the mission. Julie Adams, Adams Educational Consulting, effectiveteachingpd.com