What makes a good meeting?
Books on leading effective meetings include recommendations about precise agendas, fearless timekeepers, and detailed notetakers. In business meetings, all those items have value.
But are teacher meetings the same thing as business meetings? Should they be? How many great, innovative teachers have you seen move into leadership roles and lead meetings with the same creativity as they crafted lessons?
Bambi Betts of the Principal Training Center told a group of international school leaders that teacher meetings should be about unit planning, assessment, student work analysis, and professional development. If this is true, teacher meetings should not resemble traditional business meetings.
Changing the Meeting Paradigm
Bloated with newbie leader enthusiasm (that I suspect will crash and burn as quickly as first-year-of-anything enthusiasm), I’m channeling my energy into rethinking teacher meetings. Specifically, I wonder how teacher meetings would be different if they began with the leaders asking the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the meeting? When attendees leave the meeting, what should they know or be able to do?
- What essential question or enduring understanding am I facilitating?
- How will I know if those attending the meeting have met the objectives?
- What activities will increase understanding? Will technology help?
Not wanting to plan my first meeting completely from scratch, I searched Slideshare, The few leadership presentations that popped up on the first 20 pages were full of words and bullet points – exactly what we tell students not to do in their presentations.
So then I went to twitter, where George Couros shared his philosophy that, while it is important to move forward with annual initiatives, teachers need time to set up their classrooms. Tim Slack piped in with some ideas on saving teachers’ time – materials that I will use in February.
The first meeting turned out to be 15 minutes of me talking and 75 minutes of teacher activity. The goals:
- Create community with visual thinking and sharing (candy activity)
- Give teachers a bit of background knowledge on the new Yank
- Encourage new teachers to connect with veteran teachers (movement and conversation)
- Model the use of QR codes as a way to reinforce previous learning – locations of rooms and resources in the school (scavenger hunt)
- Facilitate discussion on procedures related to yard duty, library check-out, after-school procedures, first aid procedures, and more (questions programmed into QR codes)
While only the new teachers and their buddies were required to do the scavenger hunt, groups of veteran teachers decided they wanted to do it for fun. And, teachers organically began conversations about how the iPad QR code reader could be used to enhance classroom learning.
Other feedback came from a surprising source. The day after the scavenger hunt, I was listening to Ed Tech Co-Op during my work commute and heard David Carpenter discuss a school using QR codes for a scavenger hunt for teacher orientation. School leaders extended the QR code activity into a full-on multimedia project. Some great ideas – worth a listen and a podcast subscription.
Differentiating Meetings from Workshops
Lest it sound like I’m criticising business meetings, my lovely hubby (a.k.a. Road Warrior) rarely uses the word meeting. Mostly, his face-to-face ‘meetings’ are called workshops. Workshops have clear outcomes. Leaders plan activities that get participants to the realisation of the outcomes.
So maybe the key is to think of teacher meetings as workshops. What do you think?
A Little Fun
If you haven’t seen this comedy bit on traditional Power Point presentations, remove yourself from food items that make lead to inadvertent choking before watching.