- There are numerous ways to conduct staff meetings that excite, engage, and empower your staff to learn and share their expertise to build capacity.
- Staff meetings should leave teachers feeling empowered.
- Highlight teachers during staff meetings and amplify their voices.
- Immerse teachers in an experience to model different ideas for them to try in their own classrooms.
As a leader, I always cringe when I hear teachers say they attended another staff meeting that should have been an email or I see the many memes with that quote on social media. Time is a precious thing for educators. We need to use it wisely and create a culture where our staff looks forward to coming together for staff meetings to collaborate and focus on instructional practices to improve student outcomes.
Think About Your Purpose
Meetings should be planned with intentionality and for a purpose, not because there’s a staff meeting scheduled on the calendar. What are the objectives of the meeting and what can teachers expect to learn or reflect upon in order to improve their practices in the classroom?
Staff meetings should leave teachers feeling empowered. They should be excited to leave a meeting with an idea, strategy, or activity they can implement right away. Teachers are always looking for simple yet effective ideas they can implement immediately. They also value learning from and with their colleagues.
Highlight the Teachers
Staff meetings can be used to highlight the great work of teachers in your building. Having teachers share their best practices allows them to become the expert and go-to person in the building. This is the best way to build capacity within your own building and empower your staff. Supporting teachers in learning and growing in their practice can come from each other. It does not have to be from bringing in an ‘expert’ from outside the school.
“If you have an apple, and I have an apple, and we exchange apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea, and I have an idea, and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas” – George Bernard Shaw.
Here are just some of the ideas that I’ve used to take my staff meetings to a whole new level. The most important thing to remember is to start and end on time. Be considerate of your staff’s time.Meetings should leave teachers feeling empowered. They should be excited to leave a meeting with an idea, strategy, or activity they can implement right away. Click To Tweet
Take Your Staff Meetings to the Next Level
I invite staff to rotate the hosting duties for our meetings. This gives each of them the opportunity to host and for us to get to know them a little more. The host is responsible for the snacks. Food is a must for after school gatherings and at the minimum…chocolate! By rotating meetings to each teacher’s classroom, we get a glimpse of their classroom, set up, and what they are using for anchor charts. These visits stimulate additional conversations among the teachers and empower each other to begin sharing ideas outside of meetings. This will have a positive effect school-wide. It could even lead to peer learning visits or the use of a Pineapple Chart at your school.
In one of my schools, we were becoming a Responsive Classroom School. We rotated the meetings and included a welcome message to read when we arrived. Then we began with a relationship building activity to model what could be done with students. This helps them get to know each other and create a classroom community. The modeling of this practice at our meetings and sharing of ideas for the different Morning Meeting components contributed to our success in adopting Responsive Classroom school-wide.
Hook ’em and Add Some FUN!
How can you hook teachers before your staff meeting? What sets your meetings apart? Sometimes I use a meme or picture as a ‘hint’ to something we will be doing at our meeting. I include a little fun in our meetings as often as possible. We’ve done a ‘Lucky Duck’ raffle, played a Flamingo ring toss game, painted our “One Word,” and even tried out chair dancing. The staff never knows what to expect and I think this adds to the anticipation of upcoming meetings.
Model, Model, Model
Staff meetings are the perfect place to model for your teachers. I learned about Breakout EDU and couldn’t wait to share it with my teachers. Breakout EDU has a breakout called ‘The Faculty Meeting’. I set the scene for the staff and broke them into two groups for a little healthy competition. I then sat back and observed as the teachers worked collaboratively on each of the clues in order to open the locks. This strategy of modeling and immersing my teachers in the experience created the excitement to try breakouts in their own classrooms. It was more effective than me just telling them about what Breakout EDU would have done.
We have used Kahoot (an interactive trivia type app) to review our employee handbook and policies. Taking very dry information and turning it into an engaging experience to help staff remember the important parts was another way to model how this can be used in the classroom. Teachers were more eager to try it in their classroom after participating and seeing the value for their own students.
Amplify Teacher VOICE!
Depending on the purpose of the meeting, I make sure to allow time for teacher’s voice. This is especially important when building capacity and with shared decision making in your school. When we were re-writing our mission statement, we broke into small groups and wrote down things we wanted our mission to encompass. The groups then presented to the whole group and we took the best parts of each group’s mission statement draft. Our new school mission truly represented the voices of our teachers. (It’s important to note that we also included input from other stakeholders before finalizing our mission.)
Another way to include your teacher’s input and voice is having small groups share ideas and document them on chart paper. Hang the chart paper around the room and give teachers sticky dots to put on the ideas that resonated. After everyone has the opportunity to review all of the shared charts, you can ask staff to reflect and share out their experience. We’ve also had walk and talks. Teachers pair up and walk around outside to discuss the topic of the day. Then we come back together, reflect, and again share our thinking and learning.
This spring our staff meetings went virtual and we tried to keep them as engaging as our in-person meetings. Teachers were going above and beyond to learn new ways of teaching their students from a distance. We created a best practices gallery. Each teacher created a Google Slide to share at least one of the new things they were doing in their classroom. Some teachers had several ideas they wanted to share. We took time to leave our Zoom meeting to go into the slideshow to do a ‘Gallery Walk’. We then came back to our Zoom meeting and teachers shared some of the ideas they learned and couldn’t wait to try in their classrooms. Teachers also had a resource they could go back to because we put all of those ideas into a document.[scroll down to keep reading]
You can empower your teachers by having them model and/or teach their colleagues something new. When a teacher becomes an expert in a teaching tool, technique or strategy, I invite them to share at a meeting. Teachers have shared how they are implementing tech tools or new curriculum strategies. A few of our favorites were FlipGrid and Kahoot. The use of these tools exploded in our school when teachers began sharing how they were using them with their students. It gave teachers an expert in the building to go to and help them implement the tech tools in their own classroom. We used Kahoot together as a staff, but once a teacher shared how they applied it to their own classroom, teachers began to try it in their own classes.
Create a Culture of Risk-Taking
Creating a culture where continuous improvement of teaching strategies increases student achievement is the norm that supports this work. We’ve also created a culture of trust and risk-taking. Teachers know they can take a risk and try something new in their classroom. We talk about what works and what doesn’t so that we can all learn from our mistakes as well as challenges. This culture has been essential in creating a cycle of continuous improvement. We use our staff meetings as a vehicle for our continuous learning.
Here’s your Call to Action! Try some of these strategies to change up your next meeting. Plan ahead, think about your purpose, hook your staff, infuse a little fun, and amplify teacher voice in your next staff meeting.
I’d love to hear about how your next meeting goes!
One of the best tips I can offer is to embrace the mentality that all team members can if willing, lead from the seat they occupy. Our team works diligently to embrace each other’s talents, build each other up, and celebrate both our successes and our failures together. Our teachers have been motivated to help run our monthly faculty meetings, which we call “Empower Hour”.
During this time teachers sign up to help facilitate a conversation based around topics they are knowledgeable about and that their peers have requested to know more about. In my mind when we build our teachers’ confidence up and help them understand their voice is valuable, they are more willing to take a risk and run with the possibilities. It is truly the power of choosing your lens and looking at all of the opportunities before you. – Tara Desiderio, Principal (@Tara_Desiderio)
About Bobbie French
Bobbie French is an educational leader, presenter and writer from Massachusetts.
Bobbie has been an educator for over 24 years. She has been an elementary guidance counselor, classroom teacher, special education coordinator, Title I Director, Preschool Director and Administrator.
Bobbie is passionate about focusing on the whole child and creating an environment where all students have a sense of belonging. She appreciates and recognizes the hard work of teachers, and is committed to supporting others to be their best for kids every day. Her passion and enthusiasm for creating a positive and engaging school culture is contagious.
Bobbie is also an avid photographer and loves to tell her school’s story.