Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

August 20, 2010

Are Staff Meetings Salvageable?


8-17-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST 


Thank you to Pernille Ripp (@4thGrdTeach) for this week’s #Edchat summary. This week’s topic was one that crops up often in #edchat and one which we all like to moan about!! Pernille has done a great job in condensing and encapsulating everybody’s thoughts on this, at times tricky, relationship within education. See her bio at the end which is, I must say, very modest – Pernille is a great asset to edchat and her blog is well worth a read!!

Being an avid fan and participant of #edchat, I was thrilled at first when I was asked to write this week’s summary of our noon conversation on August 17th; How can administrators better structure school meetings to be more productive?  And then when I realized what the topic was my joy quickly turned to dread.  After all, this was one of the most non-informative #Edchat’s I had participated in this summer.  I mean, how many ways can we really change how administration schedules meetings?  Besides, why would they listen to our ideas?  And yet, this thought was exactly why this was a valid conversation to have, particularly as most of North America is getting ready to return to school.  So I thought back to my own experience; as a novice teacher I was always excited about staff meetings, after all, these were meeting where our successes would be shared, professional development would be highlighted and stimulating conversation would be had.  3 years into teaching and I have become one of the outwardly shoulder-shruggers, eye-rollers, paper-doodlers and all around none-to-thrilled about the whole administration meeting.  In fact,  if you ever want to please the staff at my school you let them know that this week’s staff meeting has been cancelled.  So when does this change in excitement occur?  When did I go from doe-eyed meeting enthusiast to uninspired tuner-outer? 

    Turns out that I am not the only one so jaded by staff meetings and the sort, fortunately, I am not the only one either that wishes it would change.  As #Edchat has proven before; there are many of us that want to change the world; one conversation at a time.  The lackluster appeal of staff meetings is not my principal’s fault; I wish it was.  Then I could blame him and feel better about my own attitude towards them.  It is a staff effort to kill a professional meeting.  To do it you must have certain ingredients in place such as whispered conversations, lack of agenda, limited follow through, and overall stressful teaching days.  I do not think that any staff sets out to arrive here, but once at this dead-end destination, those staff meetings can be hard to resuscitate.  My staff went through somewhat of a revival last year, in which, more people took responsibility for our meetings and protocol was set.  This was a huge step in the right direction and something many #Edchatters expressed a hope for.  Now instead of getting away with bringing work, we are expected to be attentive and focused.  Instead of having side conversations, we are asked to be quiet and raise our hands to participate in the topic at hand.  Agendas are no longer cloaked in secrecy but rather shared and open to suggestions.  Time is now honored and my principal no longer, and never did, expect us to stay beyond the 45 minutes.  And yet, we are not there yet.  Staff meetings are still not celebrated or heralded as learning opportunities but viewed as yet another responsibility in our already overwhelming days.  In fact, this was a recurring theme in our #Edchat.  Many participants asked for time limits to be set so that they knew exactly how long the meeting would last.  They also asked for a chance at professional development from this time, and not from outsiders, but a chance for staff within their building to share something they were doing or learning.  We often discuss how little time we have to share, why not take the time at these meetings?  Many suggested keeping announcements out of staff meetings and sending them out via email instead; an idea I wholeheartedly agree with.  I would rather read about the new changes at school, particularly when it is not open for discussion, rather than have someone drone on about the why’s and how’s of it all.  One fantastic idea, was to create a backchannel for the meeting, whether using Facebook or Twitter, but providing some sort of means to give a running commentary while the meeting happened, much like you see happen during Elluminate presentations.  This would also work as a tool to draw all staff members in and for everyone to feel valued and listened to.  Although, this would be ideal for me, I am from a school where I am one of the only ones on Twitter.  So to convince a whole staff to not only join Twitter, to use it, and then to use it during staff meetings can seem like a mountain of obstacles and yet it does happen in schools.  How though is still being debated.

    So are staff meetings headed the way of the fax machine?  We still need them once in a while but really do we have to meet face-to-face?  I would argue that staff meetings are vital to a school’s success.  It is an instant read of how engaged its staff is, as well as how the climate is.  There is nothing that can beat a room full of staff members engaged in a conversation.  Yet the format is clearly not a success in most schools.  Many people mentioned the negative attitudes that would be brought into meetings and seemed rather desperate to quiet them.  And I agree, nothing can harm the morale of a staff more than one person’s negative outbursts.  The same can be said for when select few dominate the conversation, rather than making it a full staff discussion.  Technology, though, does provide us with some tools to create better learning environments, as we see in our classrooms.  However, just like in our classrooms we must take ownership of the meetings and create the type of environment we would like to be taught in.  We ask our students to do this ,so why is it as adults that we do not hold ourselves accountable?  Whether it be a back channel, a protocol or simply renewed energy; keep in mind that you are the controller of a staff meeting as far as  that your energy for that meeting is replicated and mirrored by those sitting around you.  So although we may feel haggard after another full day of teaching, bring that love of teaching and learning into your staff meeting and do not let other’s stop you either.  One person can make a difference as we all know, and you are not alone in wanting a better environment for staff overall.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • Keep housekeeping items out of staff meetings and email them instead.
  • Create a backchannel for staff to be involved in
  • Make it a forum of professional development
  • Give staff choices in what they participate in
  • Adopt a protocol for proper meeting behavior
  • Keep negative attitudes out of meetings
  • Set a time limit for how long someone can speak to ensure equal opportunity for joining the discussion

Here is a selection of some of the comments: 

 With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@cpoole27:   Meetings could consist of admin/peers sharing in small groups what they have learned from their PLN and new ideas researched 
@miken_bu:   Start by only holding meetings when needed, not for info that can be given in other ways 
@Demerica:   Meetings should be differentiated and give teachers choices. Did this with PD time at my school this year with good results
@DeronDurflinger:   I think admin. meetings need to focus on learning instead of management stuff
@hblanton:   Don’t read things to staff members, give them the info ahead of time, then make the meeting a dialogue with specific goals. 
@cybraryman1:   Meetings & trainings should have a menu of choices for staff members after general staff announcements
@chris_reuter:   Most effective mtgs r when teachers/kids share what is going on and admin play a 2ndary role.
@TomWhitby:   Admins need to employ Tech to convey Management stuff in order to cocentrate on Learning issues for F2F Meetings.
@billgx:   A meeting consisting primarily of people tooting their own horn is usually not productive. #edchat 
@cybraryman1:   Meetings should follow the unconference structure where you can pick a session rather than being bored in general session #edchat 
@esolcourses:  lack of inclusion in the decision-making process can sometimes lead to disaffection 
@SuzanBrandt:   So excited that my administrators are referring to faculty meetings as “Learning Meetings”
@Nunavut_Teacher:   My principal gives teachers the opportunity at specific meetings to present on a topic they are passionate about. Love that.
@MissCheska:   Admin should set up standard that for every gripe there must be a solution offered, re: preventing gripes
@ColinTGraham:   Local schools must have faced or be facing similar issues/problems. Why not set up inter-school teams to discuss/ present/share?
@tomwhitby:   As in a class if you engage the participants of the Mtg they will pay attention.
@arosey:  Hard for some admin, but “control” of meeting must be given up. Let us talk and interact
@TomWhitby:   If a tchr entered a class w/o a plan to engage and teach the class, the Admin would be upset. Should we expect less of the admin? 
@patriciasmeyers:   Every voice must be respected in order for meetings to work 
@mritzius:  Meetings of larger groups should have a “Parliamentarian”, keeping the talk focused on topic and knocking people off soapboxes
@tomwhitby: Conducting a productive meeting should be a required skill of all admins. It needs to be modeled and taught. 


I would ask that the following question is added to the poll next week:

  • Does homework have a true benefit to learning?

To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

As ever, there were some great links shared:

web20classroom:  Awesome List From @cybraryman1 Of All Educational Chats on Twitter: http://bit.ly/cT3cyO

DeronDurflinger:  Sample of “faculty meeting” from my wiki http://bit.ly/ayD99m

hadleyjf:   “Tempering the Pull of the ‘Urgent” – Thoughts about multitasking and students: http://bit.ly/8GamLb

isteconnects:  New Post: A Brief Review of Course Management Tools for Educators http://bit.ly/9R1pE0

cybraryman1:  @DeronDurflinger Got to love Van Meter – THINK, LEAD and SERVE http://bit.ly/aCdHMx

ColinTGraham:  Since more and more schools seem to be turning into small businesses… http://bit.ly/bQK0YD  business meeting tips may help! #edchat

shamblesguru:  Screencast of #edchat happening live PART2 still unscripted, unrehearsed, unedited #shambles #edtech http://screenr.com/QR0

Nunavut_Teacher:  Keep the meeting on schedule. http://nextup.info/ #edchat

TwitClass:  @ImagineLearning Yes! @DeronDurflinger uses a wiki at #vanmeter http://bit.ly/ayD99m  #edchat

cybraryman1:  @heoj My Skype page: http://bit.ly/aQNA10  #edchat

nancyrubin:  Is the Backchannel the Future or the Present? http://t.co/q196uTg #edchat

cybraryman1:  Do I see Backchanneling in meetings in all schools in the future? Backchannel page: http://bit.ly/cv6H7t  #edchat

mritzius:  David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and Seth Godin’s blog should be required reading for leaders of meetings #edchat

fisher1000:  @tomwhitby #edchat There’s a good book about that very thing here: http://tinyurl.com/2d96qek

cybraryman1:  Professional Development page (the good, the bad, the ugly!) http://bit.ly/bOj5Sv #edchat

RushaSams:  Book rec: School Leadership That Works by Marzano. #edchat

isteconnects:   New Post: A Brief Review of Course Management Tools for Educators http://bit.ly/9R1pE0 #iste #edchat

ColinTGraham: Interesting video produced by New Brunswick Dept of Ed http://youtu.be/EjJg9NfTXos  21st Century Education #ukedchat #edtech #edchat

esolcourses:  @PrimaryEdTech @thompseg: You can use Google Calendar to share events http://bit.ly/aEQe8  #elemchat #edtech #edchat #edcamp

web20education:  Next Gen project #edtech20 http://nextgenlearning.com/get-involved/ideas/30 #edchat #elearning

esolcourses:  Good article on how to cut the dead wood out of meetings – Meetings Google-style http://bit.ly/cDcY52  #edchat

marynabadenhors:  Quick read on running effective meetings http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/RunningMeetings.htm

graingered: #Edchat http://bit.ly/9pruU2  5th gr wiki, http://bit.ly/98DjVz  tech wiki

graingered:  @ShellTerrell http://mattievolunteers.wikispaces.com / 4 volunteers… membership request required #edchat

shamblesguru: #backchanneling at any meeting,not just ‘staff’, is liberating http://bit.ly/9NjL49  #edchat #edtech

kylepace:   A Framework For Teaching With Twitter…http://ow.ly/2qNXU

ShellTerrell:  Has #Edchat made an impact on your teaching or learning experience? Plz let us know http://bit.ly/aQ0RQd

Pernille Ripp (@4thGrdTeach) is a 4th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin who is constantly amazed at the brilliance of her students.  Married to her soul mate who is a a closet-teacher, she continues her learning journey this year with the Global Read Aloud Project as well as breaking down classroom expectations and starting all over in a 4/5 class.  She has won no awards and been given no accolades other than the lightbulb moments her students share with her every day.  When inspiration hits she writes for her own blog, Blogging through the 4th Dimension and overall just loves her life.  

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

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If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Login or Register to read the rest of this content. Mouse here forRelated LinksRelated LinksAre Staff Meetings Salvageable? Filed Under: Call Center Manager Tagged With: call center meetings, have productive staff […]

    Pingback by Have Productive Staff Meetings – Reduce the Impact of Troublemakers | CallCenterBestPractices.com — October 4, 2011 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

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