- You dread staff meetings as they're generally really dull.
- If you have to run a staff meeting, you worry about it being dull.
- Even if the topic is interesting, teachers have been working their butts off all day long and are exhausted so anything other than a nap is going to feel dull.
- Rock → You ← Hard place.
Basically, staff meetings with teachers are a very difficult thing to get "right". We are a tough crowd and we are trying to preserve every ounce of energy to stay awake so there's very little left for being an engaging audience!
If you have to run a teacher meeting and are panicking about how to do it well, fear not - I got you. As someone who runs a department and has to deliver after school meetings around once a month or so, I do this a lot and have developed a few aces up my sleeve to make it quick, painless and ensure everyone leaves on a high!
Keep reading to find out how I do it:
I like to email out an agenda a few days before the meeting to give the team a chance to look it over and think about what they'd like to contribute. I've been in meetings where the agenda was printed off for us so we could write notes on it, but honestly this is extra work that I don't believe is really necessary for you. If people are desperate for it they can print one for themselves, no biggie.
2) Stick to the point
The worst meetings are those where the person leading it has taken it waaay off tangent with no hopes of coming back quickly. This is generally frustrating for everyone else - we're trying to get through this agenda quickly, don't add other things on there to drag it out further!? As I try to make my meetings interactive with lots of discussion, it's likely someone else might steer the meeting in the wrong way. As captain, it's your job to acknowledge their point and steer things back on the right track. You can always say you'll come back to their point at the end or another time (and make sure you actually do).
3) One conversation at a time
As I mentioned in point 2, I like discussion based meetings where everyone gets a chance to talk and share their ideas with the team. Sometimes this can lead to people breaking off into mini conversations, especially in large groups. If that happens and you didn't instruct it, nip that in the bud right away. It's really important that everyone is involved in the same conversation - plus you need to be taking accurate minutes!
4) Take minutes
Ideally, everyone should be in the habit of taking notes in meetings but there should also be someone taking "official" notes that are kept on file and emailed to administrators etc. Check your school's policy on this - sometimes there is someone designated to take minutes but honestly, I just do mine myself and type as a we go.
5) Finish on time
Seriously though. Everyone is counting down to home time. I've been in meetings where the person delivering has still been talking half an hour after the cut off point - it does not make anyone feel good! Let people go when you say you will - sitting in a meeting when you have no idea when it will end is a form of torture. If you can't get through everything on your agenda, cut what can just be put in an email and let people go on time.
"Any Other Business" is an important part of the agenda. It offers team members a chance to share important information / raise an important topic / share successes in an open forum with the whole team present. Some meetings I've been to want the A.O.B. in advance (usually if there are lots of people attending so the meeting doesn't overrun - see point 5). However you want to do it is fine but give people a chance to say what they need to!
7) Listen to your team
It's sad that I have to write this one. But seriously, most of the meetings I to go to are not actually collaboration. They just regurgitate info (that could all just be put in an email, ugh) that they have already decided without much input from us. That's personally not how I like to do things. My advice is to listen to the people and get everyone to work together to come up with solutions as a team: be a leader, not a boss.
8) Bring snacks and beverages
You'd be amazed what a few snacks and a drink does for staff morale, plus it gives a boost to the afternoon slump! My team actually look forward to seeing what goodies I pick up for them - and it doesn't have to be extravagant. You could bring some chocolates and biscuits (cookies, for my American friends!) but my team are a healthy bunch so I bring them grapes, nuts, dried fruit, chopped fresh fruit etc. and they lurve it! Being British, we also enjoy a pot of tea while we work too - it's just such a mood lifter!
9) Keep it positive
As teachers, we have more to moan about than anyone, that's for sure! But, in order to have a successful meeting you want to try and keep things positive and moving forward. People will likely want to vent a little bit and that's OK, but they key is make sure every moan is counteracted with a solution or action step. Don't just moan for moaning's sake. It just brings everyone down. Plus they're tired, don't make it worse :P
10) Lighten the mood
For the really tough meetings, especially those with lots of staff who might not know each other well, start off with a fun game or starter activity!
I've done quizzes, wordsearches and crosswords but nothing has worked as well as these Ice Breaker "This or That" dilemmas! I first created a version of these a few years ago when I had to deliver a whole staff meeting to a room of tired teachers, so I really wanted to create a fun buzz in the room.
I decided to jazz them up AND bulk them out to make 99 funny teacher dilemmas that you can download and use too! Yes, I said 99! They come on a PowerPoint so all you have to do is have this scrolling on the projector in the background for 5-10 minutes before your meeting starts! It works on an automatic timer to effortlessly scroll through allowing time for colleagues to have a good laugh before the meeting starts!
Please note, it's PowerPoint only though so you'll need access to a projector, but you do have the option of printing the slides if you want to. Also, each one is completely EDITABLE to allow for cultural differences in language! (Fun fact: did you know in the UK we call the "teacher's lounge" a "staff room"?)
So to make a meeting awesome, take away the anxiety of being greeted with grumpy faces at the next staff meeting, and do a fun activity that gets everyone talking and laughing - they'll be much more receptive to engaged in your meeting after that!