Four Ways to Improve Staff Meetings

We have all found ourselves in this situation before, sitting in yet another meeting where we pretend to be interested. Many of us have accepted the fact that these meetings are a waste of time, but we should demand more. Therefore, facilitators, regardless of the type of meeting you are planning, consider using these strategies to transform meetings into productive power hours.

Simple Adjustments to Transform Meetings Into Power Hours

1. Use face-to-face meetings for interactive engagement: This allows staff to not only be physically present but also actively involved, making them feel empowered. The environment should encourage staff contributions and foster a sense of appreciation for their input.

Instead of using meetings for information sharing, email a weekly update to share information outside of meetings. During in-person meetings, prioritize dynamic and collaborative learning experiences. Consider the user experience and create tasks that promote equitable participation, such as using a dilemma protocol, collectively analyzing student work, seeking feedback through a gallery walk, or solving problems with a design sprint.

Utilize a variety of verbal and nonverbal engagement strategies and vary the size and composition of groups. This will model high-impact strategies and provide staff with an opportunity to experience these strategies as learners, making them more memorable.

Make meeting resources accessible and empower staff to customize the materials for their own use with students. It is always satisfying to walk away from a meeting with practical tools and strategies that can be implemented immediately.

2. Establish structures, routines, and rituals that promote inclusivity: Implement systems that ensure everyone is well-informed and included, embracing the wisdom of author and professor BrenĂ© Brown that “clear is kind.” This will contribute to a more meaningful and collaborative environment.

Create a distinct meeting rhythm with a clearly defined purpose. Send calendar invites with essential details such as the meeting purpose, participants, location, and start and end times.

Develop a document that serves as a dynamic agenda and link it within the calendar invite. This living document will serve as a comprehensive and transparent resource, allowing staff to review past agendas and anticipate upcoming ones.

Consider using this sample meeting agenda or create one that includes the following categories:

  • Community Connection: How can you ensure that all voices are heard at the beginning of the meeting to signify active learning and foster staff connection?
  • Active Learning: How can you engage staff in collaborative and dynamic learning that is focused on the needs of the learners?
  • Updates Roundtable: How can you use this time to invite staff to share celebrations, address needs, and communicate time-sensitive messages for the benefit of the group?

Encourage staff to take on the role of meeting facilitators or to share as contributors. Staff can volunteer to lead the community connection portion or share a strategy during the active learning time. Staff-led sessions can cover a range of topics, such as introducing new technology tools, modeling effective feedback strategies, or leading a reflective activity.

Whenever possible, invite all staff members (licensed and classified) and design meetings to accommodate the needs of each role. Create a team environment that not only values but actively seeks diverse perspectives. Continually ask, “Who is not here?” Ensuring representation from all roles promotes a comprehensive and inclusive approach, deepening the collective identity of us and our school.

3. Assign Directly Responsible Individuals (DRIs) and collaborators for projects: Empower staff by assigning DRIs and collaborators for significant projects. The DRI is responsible for planning, organizing, and disseminating information. They serve as the go-to resource for questions or information. Collaborators work closely with the DRI to execute the project.

This structure promotes staff empowerment, builds capacity, and enhances self-efficacy by encouraging staff to take on leadership roles, improve project management skills, enhance facilitation skills, and boost their creative confidence.

Invite staff members to take on the DRI role for open projects. These open projects could include events such as back-to-school night, exhibitions of learning, book fairs, or other schoolwide, grade level, or multi-class events.

Create a visible open-project board that displays the DRI, project, and deadline. Encourage staff members to add ideas to the open-project board and pitch their ideas to others who might join as collaborators.

DRIs and collaborators can provide project updates, seek feedback, and more during power-hour meetings.

4. Ensure effective facilitation: Shift from speaking at staff to collaborating with them. This builds trust in a way that simply talking to them never will. Additionally, all participants thrive when actively engaged, so empower them to do the heavy lifting. Continuously ask, “What am I doing that my staff could be doing?” and plan accordingly to foster a sense of belonging.

When using slides, follow the 25/25 rule – limit each slide to a maximum of 25 words in a 25-point font. Engage the audience with simple words, phrases, and images so that they listen instead of reading text-heavy slides.

Avoid asking questions that already have obvious answers or only one right answer. Instead, use open-ended queries such as “How might we…?” or “What are some ways…?”

Model strategies that teachers can use with their students. Start meetings by encouraging teachers to wear two hats – one as a learner actively participating in the work and one as a teacher reflecting on instructional moves to add to their toolbox. End meetings with a question such as, “What instructional moves did you observe today that you may adapt or adopt for your students?”

Deliberately design meetings to acknowledge the expertise in the room and challenge staff to stretch themselves. Allow space for learning to occur and design using the Universal Design for Learning framework:

Representation: How can you provide multiple ways for staff to access the material?

Engagement: How can you provide multiple ways for staff to participate?

Expression: How can you provide staff with various methods to practice and demonstrate their learning?

We aspire to be part of a collaborative process where staff actively contribute to shaping what school can and should be. Let’s embrace the question, “How might we?” and break free from the typical meeting script by fostering curiosity, initiating subtle changes, testing ideas, and iterating.

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