We’ve all been there.
Sitting at a meeting or a grad school class where the agenda is ten miles long, broken up into either short little choppy increments or hour-long blocks without a break in sight.
Half of the items on the list seem to come from out of nowhere or could easily have been addressed in an email.
The absolute worst? When the facilitators in no way honor the experience and talents the people at the meeting bring to the table, making everyone learn about the same things as if they have no understanding whatsoever.
When I was a teacher I loathed these experiences. It felt like meetings were “being done to me” as opposed to inviting me to bring my talents and grow my strengths.
Many of our students feel the same way. No matter how great of a student they are, they feel like they are showing up to the “school show,” expected to follow the rules and expectations set forth for them with little input as to how the day will proceed.
Can you imagine spending every day this way? I can’t.
We can and should do better.
When I became an administrator I vowed I would never bring this type of experience to my staff. Am I perfect at it yet? Definitely not, but here are a few things I try to do so that I’m not bringing a case of the meeting dreads to my staff:
- Ask for feedback. Although I haven’t yet been able to start from scratch with my school leadership team in creating an agenda due to time constraints (we’re almost ahead of this), I do bring the agenda to the team and ask for feedback prior to our institute days or Wednesday late arrivals.
- Build on the expertise of the team. What are they good at? What are they passionate about? What do they see as the greatest need that would make the meeting most valuable to all? Stop being the only one who presents and let teacher leaders lead. They’re the ones who know the kids the best. We need to trust them!
- Tie everything back into the vision that was created as a staff. Ours this year is #unlimitedgrowthandconnection. We make sure that every agenda item is connected to this and explicitly stated.
- Include breaks and don’t make people turn off their technology. We’re all adults. If we’ve made the topics of the meeting meaningful then people won’t want to distract themselves with other things. We should trust people to use their resources when they need/want to.
- Include something fun. Meetings are an opportunity to build culture and camaraderie. We added in a “Walk-Up Song” activity at the beginning of each staff meeting where we asked staff members to send us the song they would have played when they walk into the classroom like they do in Major League Baseball. The rest of the staff has to guess whose song it is. We even have prizes. From the response at the last meeting, we might add in karaoke. What does your staff enjoy? Thankfully mine loves music and food, two of my favorite things so I also try to bring some sort of tasty treat.
If you’re a teacher, what might this look like in your classroom? How often do you ask for feedback or build the day around goals students have set for themselves? How can you make each learning target meaningful to the students so they see a connected purpose in the work they are doing? What would the day look like if more choice and voice were incorporated?
I love this question that George Couros poses to educators,
“Would you want to be a student in your own classroom?”
For me, this question has transitioned to, “Would you want to be a teacher in your staff meeting?” I hope as the year progresses the answer to this question becomes an emphatic yes! Let’s stop “doing school to people” and start asking for meaning from our people.