"We really should have more meetings," said no teacher ever. Meetings are probably one of the biggest annoyances for any teacher, especially poorly run ones. I often hear from teachers that they are reluctant to work collaboratively as they think there'll be way more meetings and they'll waste too much time.
Time truly is an educator's most precious commodity and we don't have it to waste. Saying that, I truly believe that working collaboratively leads to better outcomes for everyone. So how can we make sure that our collaborative team meetings are effective, purposeful and learner focused? As we kick off a new year when there sure needs to be a lot of meetings, I thought I'd share my hot tips for making them work for you.
#1 Start with a team charter.
I'll go into more detail about these in another blog post, but it's important that meeting protocols have been discussed and decided as part of a team charter. This sets you up for success right from the start. Start times, finish times, agenda, decision making, roles and responsibilities, actions - all need to have clear processes and guidelines.
#2 What's the purpose of this meeting?
Why are you having this meeting? If it is purely to give people information, perhaps there is another way it could be done. Email? Shared google doc? Otherwise it's helpful to outline a clear purpose at the start. This can also serve to keep a meeting learner focused. For example: "Our purpose today is to analyse last year's achievement data and to group our students." "Our purpose today is to discuss ways of gathering and using student voice."
#3 Shared agenda - but get it done!
It's great to have a shared agenda that people can add to, but nothing worse than an empty agenda at 3:00pm followed by last minute additions and a full agenda at 3:15pm. Decide on a closing time for adding agenda items. This gives the chairperson time to order agenda items and check time.
A key role in meetings is that of the time keeper. Assign times to agenda items and have a group member monitor this. This helps to keep discussion focused and on track.
#5 Share the load
Share roles and responsibilities for chairing meetings, taking minutes, organising the agenda.
#6 End the meeting
There's nothing worse than a meeting kind of finishing, but people are still chatting and you're not really sure if you can leave or not! So you kind of stand around and before you know it, you're pulled back into a discussion that should have been part of the meeting. Make a definite end time and let people know it's fine to leave. Then anyone who wants to stay around and chat can but meeting decisions shouldn't be revisited.
#7 Park the questions and idea "sparks".
It's easy to get off on a tangent during a meeting because someone thinks of a question about a previous agenda item or has a sudden idea based on the discussion.(Anyone whose been in a meeting with me knows I'm guilty of this!) Have post-it notes handy so that people can jot those thoughts down. Then at the end of the meeting, set aside time to revisit any questions that need answering. Ideas can maybe go on the next meeting's agenda or be discussed if time.
Build in some reflection time periodically. Check how you're going following the processes you agreed to. Celebrate progress you have made. Be self-aware and think about how you are contributing. A fun way to look at roles is with the video below - "Every Meeting Ever". You will have definitely met some of these people in your career!
I hope these ideas give you some support around having effective meetings in your collaborative team this year. I highly recommend Joan Dalton's "Learning Talk" series as a resource, particularly Book 5, "Important Conversations At Work". Some of the ideas above I have adapted from her work and some are from my experiences in many boring meetings in my career! Here's to less of those in 2017.
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.