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6 Tips for Faculty Meetings Worth Going To

6 Tips for Faculty Meetings Worth Going To

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Excited teacher smiling

Ask most teachers about faculty meetings and they'll describe a black hole of boring announcements, fruitless debate, and overwhelming agendas. In short, most of us would rather fall on a fork than attend. But what if faculty meetings could actually inspire and engage? What if they were the high point of the week? It can be done, and here are the 6 key elements to facilitating the fork-free faculty meeting.

1. Space. We have to work within the space we have, of course, but a few small adjustments can go a long way. Make sure the space is clean, that everyone can see everyone else, and consider providing food and drinks. There's something about eating together that builds goodwill and community. 

2.  Stance. Ask yourself what you're hoping to model as an instructional leader. Get clear about your pedagogical stance and make sure you're walking your talk.

3. Processes. Just like good classrooms are built on reliable systems and structures, a positive faculty meeting should utilize protocols and processes that ensure all voices are heard, that no single voice dominates, and that discussion stays focused and productive . (I personally like the protocols from the School Reform Initiative: http://schoolreforminitiative.org.)

4. Presence. If there's ever a time to be fully present and aware, this is it. Try to set aside your personal agenda, fear, or hoped-for outcome and notice what's really going on in front of you. You might be surprised by what you notice, and you'll be modeling what it is to be fully present as a facilitator. (Learn more about mindfulness practices here:  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/just-breathe-when-teachers-practice-mindful....)

5. Clarity. Figure out what you want to achieve in the meeting. What problem needs solving? What issue needs exploring? Keep the agenda brief--only 1-2 topics or questions. If you're using the meeting for announcements, stop. Anything that can be shared by email should be. We all have a limited number of hours on the planet. Choose to respect your team by using them wisely.

6. Courage. Changing the culture around meetings can be nerve wracking. Choosing to be intentional about stance, to limit your time to only the important issues, to insist that everyone engage respectfully and fully--it may not be easy. Start by asking staff if they're satisfied with the use of the time. If you build from what they identify as shortcomings, you'll get better results. 

Facilitating--rather the leading--requires a shift in the way we think about staff meetings. If done well, it raises the level of discourse, builds professional culture and community, and models the pedagogical philosophies we want to see in classrooms. How would your meetings be different if you made the shift?

 


This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Laura, great tips. I wonder if your tip about clarity can help many faculty meetings become more productive. Faculty meetings are often turned into a discussion about problems, but what if we come with solutions to problems already identified? I think it might make better use of everyone's time and keeps everyone positive and focused.

BoHo's picture

You know, the best teachers make the best school leaders (mistakenly referred to as "administrators" by some). This is because the best teachers do all of the things listed above in their classrooms on a DAILY BASIS. The weakest teachers, the ones who do not want to be in the classroom, somehow end up in school management running meetings in which yes, we'd rather all fall on a fork. This is because those who cannot teach, cannot run meetings either, and certainly cannot lead a school. The best school leaders, (like the best teachers), will have a clearly defined outcome for the meeting (lesson), will listen to all and respond (differentiate), will make decisions about when to move on (transitions) and will sum up what has been agreed. It's not rocket science....

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

That's a great point! I think you're right that we often induct focused on solving the problems in the meeting, when we know that most people need more processing time before they're ready to come up with solutions. I also think we end up wasting a lot of time listening to the same voices rehash the same points over and over again.

Sarah J. Donovan, PhD's picture
Sarah J. Donovan, PhD
middle school ELA teacher

Thanks for the tips. I also think much effort has to go on before and after to create a culture of engagement, so that the teachers know their interests and needs are of concern, so that there is a feeling that what is about to happen in that meeting matters.

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