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Administration & Leadership

Designing a Better Staff Meeting

With the right planning, these meetings can maximize collaboration and even be uplifting and a little fun.

September 29, 2021
Staff meeting outside
SolStock / iStock

As we plan our faculty meetings, it’s important that we design these gatherings with as much care and intention as we design lessons in classrooms. As career educators, we have sat in our fair share of meetings that felt like they could have been conducted over email, or where we had no idea what the point of the meeting was supposed to be. To be honest, we have run some of those meetings. But, thank goodness, we have learned to move beyond “sit and get” and design meetings that maximize collaboration, community, and learning.

4 Ways to Design More Engaging and Inclusive Meetings

1. Provide numerous opportunities for staff engagement. Build time into staff meetings for colleagues to collaborate and reflect. This can be done virtually or in person.

If you’re meeting virtually, post “chat alerts” where colleagues can share their thoughts in the chat box or join breakout rooms where they can connect with each other. In person, provide options to join discussions with small groups or reflect in writing. As you present slides, insert a chat alert every three to four slides with an embedded timer whereby you encourage colleagues to stand up and chat, stretch, grab snacks, write notes, or walk and talk. We like to use five-minute timers because it’s enough time for a lap in the hallway as colleagues have meaningful discussions about their practice.

2. Ask for feedback. We often talk about the importance of voice and choice when it comes to students, but it’s also important to cocreate meeting agendas by asking for feedback from adults. Carve out two minutes at the end of each meeting for staff members to fill out an anonymous feedback form. Ask them to rate their level of engagement and the usefulness of the meeting, and share feedback for future meetings.

One great sentence starter to offer: “At the next meeting, it would be cool if we….” The results will inspire you to try new things. In a recent virtual meeting we facilitated, the following suggestions pushed us to reflect on our own practices and design additional options at the next meeting:

  • “It would be cool if we had materials ahead of time to read/review. A lot of great info and resources but a bit overwhelming all at once.”
  • “It would have been cool if we had longer time in the breakout sessions to collaborate with colleagues and less time working on our own by examining the documents and links.”

After reading this feedback, we made two adjustments to our next meeting. We sent out the meeting agenda with embedded resources before the meeting—and reminded educators that reviewing the tools ahead of time was optional. Additionally, when we offered breakout sessions, we prompted educators to rename themselves to include “10 minutes” or “20 minutes.” We created groups based on how long they wanted to collaborate with colleagues. After 10 minutes, we prompted the 10-minute group to “leave room,” so they could work on their own to examine documents and links. This was responsive to the needs of colleagues and provided the flexibility that’s important in our classrooms.

3. Take time to showcase best practices. This is our favorite part of meetings. Always carve out time for faculty members to share their successes with lesson design, instruction, and assessment ideas and techniques. This ensures that regardless of the agenda, there is always a pop of professional learning.

When you see great teaching in classrooms, invite staff members to share their practice with their peers. We have asked our colleagues to present student-generated rubrics, discussion protocols, innovative assessment formats, and even mini-lessons to kick off meetings.

You don’t need to devote half of your staff meeting to these examples. Just a few minutes of peers seeing the great things their colleagues are doing can be inspirational and push others to try new techniques. Great ideas will spread!

4. Elevate social and emotional learning. The past year and a half has been disruptive, to say the least. Educators have taken on incredible challenges to meet the needs of students remotely, in person, and concurrently. There is so much talk about supporting student mental health and being trauma-informed, and the same is true within our practices as we support our colleagues. As you plan every meeting, be sure that you carve out time for mindfulness and reflection and for connection, and that you offer opportunities to hear concerns.

If we embrace social and emotional learning, we have to predict that we will have colleagues who are frustrated, overwhelmed, and drained, and we have to design our meetings with that in mind. Providing options for adult learners to find balance as they attend meetings is a great way to communicate awareness of these realities while also modeling techniques that could be implemented in the classroom. Lighten up meeting structures: use chat alerts, play music, share funny memes, serve delicious snacks, invite therapy dogs, and periodically schedule time to truly listen.

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