Professional Learning

Department Meetings Done Right

December 4, 2014 Updated December 3, 2014

I have sat through my fair share of meetings that were dominated by bureaucratic concerns. I have been handed articles and was told to look them over whenever I had a chance. I have had memos read to me that could have easily been conveyed in an email. I have felt my voice squandered as one person dominated the conversation. I have seen the minutes pass and the opportunities go as hour-long meetings turned into venting sessions. And I am sure I am not alone.

A department meeting should be about communal celebration and honest reflection. It should be a meeting of the minds rather than a meeting of an agenda, with members coming together to share best practices and identify areas for growth. Its fundamental reason for being should be to inquire a where individuals are, where they want to go, and what tools and talents can best be harnessed to get them there. 

Department meetings can be where good ideas are conceived, but also where they never get off the ground. Technology will come to the rescue. Apps like Voxer allow conversations to exist well past the meeting and ensure that good ideas can turn into action. 

How can department meetings be improved? How can they efficiently achieve reflection, celebration, and production all at the same time? Here is my ideal department meeting agenda that can be accomplished in 30 minutes. I would love for you to share your ideal schedule or let me know what has work and what has not for you at department meetings.

Warm Up  (5-7 minutes) -- Watch a 3-5 minute video that models an effective instructional practice or offers the opportunity to critique a moment in a lesson. 

Teacher Spotlight (7-10 minutes) – Each teacher in the department has the spotlight for 1 minute. They identify their current unit of study and share a snapshot of one lesson that worked well and, reflexively, identify one that fell flat, trying to pinpoint what might have been amiss. This allows colleagues to learn from each other’s successes while offering the opportunity to provide honest reflection on improvement. We would use Voxer to have back-channel discussion in the days and weeks after the meeting to keep the conversation going. 

Resource Smackdown (5-7 minutes) — Each teacher shares a website, digital tool, or resource that was beneficial in the past month. 

Department Goal for the Month (7-10 minutes) -- Members vote on a specific focus for the next 30 days. It may be a professional goal like fine-tuning questions on final exams or it could be personal ones like fine new ways to make students comfortable in the classroom. 

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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