Effective Staff Meetings at School

"We are regularly talking of schools becoming a business or work as corporates, but we forget that poor raw material in business is rejected at once but not so in schools. Poor schoolmasters! No doubt, schools and schoolmasters have to be as organised with systems and with a sense of order - and predictability - as a corporate house. These balances have to be kept".  
~ AN Dar, former Principal of The Scindia School and Advisor www.SchoolEducation.com

Thank you, Mr Dar, for mentoring not only students but teachers and managements too. My focus today is on how Staff Meetings at the School can become effective, and this is where we do have lessons to learn from corporate culture and sectors that deliver professional services. Some basic points to start with:
  1. Use an Agenda
  2. Keep Minutes and Logs
  3. Punctuality is the key
  4. Appropriate facilities 
  5. Have a chairperson or a leader
"School leadership matters. During the past decade, there has been a growing recognition among educators and policymakers that school principals must be instructional leaders who ensure that high-quality teaching occurs in every classroom. This view is backed up by a solid body of evidence showing that leadership places second only to teaching among school-related influences on learning".
~ The Principal Story, Learning Guide

It all starts with the Leader and thus I think best we first explain the Leaders' role. The role of the chairperson is essential for running meetings with effective outcomes. Avoid common mistakes and learn how to run more effective meetings. The role of a Chairperson is time consuming, with work between meetings, external representation of the organisation, and work with staff. Chairing a large organisation requires diplomatic and leadership skills of a high level. "Business work, especially in an office setting, demands a certain degree of collaboration. For instance, important decisions often call for more than one person's perspective and important work often needs the expertise of multiple people to get done. Meetings are one way to make collaboration structured and organized, but without a sense of purpose or control, meetings can easily become overlong and inefficient. Knowing how to plan, prepare, and lead a meeting that you're chairing can make the difference between an effective meeting and a wasted one".
~ How To Chair A Meeting (www.wikihow.com)

Leaders Role
1. Inform all members to prepare: the teachers like their students must come prepared to the meeting, they need to do a bit of research and find out what they are going in for, this is the most important starting point .
2. Start with the end in mind: the goal of any game is the key for winning. We may meet to find a solution for a discipline challenge at a school or why the students are not performing or even why the school administration is challenged to manage the finances, the end of the meeting or the goal is very important.
3. Follow an Agenda: time management is the key and this can only happen when we follow an agenda. Items of the Agenda must be listed and the group focus on an item at a time will lead to effective outcomes.
4. Round-robin process: A round robin is an arrangement of choosing all elements in a group equally in some rational order ... This is often described as round-robin process scheduling. The Leader must identify the strengths of the members present and involve them in the deliberations, teachers inherently like being involved and are willing to take leadership when given true responsibility.
5. Keep Discussion on target: Meetings can become a 'talkathon' or a prolonged discussion or debate, "a day-long talkathon on artistic freedom".
6. Build consensus: we need to come to a general agreement about something: an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group. At a staff meeting, this is very useful way to build action teams to deliver better.
7. Resolve conflict: reasoning, opinions and personal egos often need to be considered and when the time nears it is imperative we work to resolving any conflict. The burden of conflict will often undermine the full purpose of the meeting.
8. Revisit Action Plans: the action plan is usually based on the school needs, to take ahead the plan with the team we need to work on a principle of shared leadership, and ensure that the student needs are kept in mind. Action plans will always work best with a good team, and have in place the right leadership. 
9. Share Comments: all the inputs of the teachers must be given due considerations and their comments must be reflected in the proceedings, this will get them more involved and is a small step in giving regard to their effective participation.
10. Ensure all are very clear about the decision: the outcome of the meeting must be clearly communicated and an action plan or things-to-do must he made in the concluding time of the meeting. In a well-planned meeting the concluding minutes are most important and this should never be hurried through. 

Dilbert.com Funny example of an ineffective meeting
Staff meetings can be the most important and productive professional development opportunities of the school year; on the other hand, they can be the most dreaded and squandered time a teacher will spend. So, what makes the difference between wonderful and wasteful meetings? That's the question we posed to Education World's Principal Files team. We asked team members to tell us about their best-ever staff meetings.

According to Ed World's P-Files team, successful staff meetings are a function of the purpose, the planning, and the pace of those meetings.

"For me, the best staff meetings are those in which there is active participation, a lot of give and take, and a consensus," said Debbie Levitz, principal at West Elementary School in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

"I love staff meetings because I try to go into each staff meeting as a student -- a student of administration and leadership," added Uwe C. Gordon, principal at Hennessey (Oklahoma) High School. "I don't have many staff meetings, but I try to make the most of each one. I try to keep an open mind and open ears to the messages that my faculty is sending."

Here are some more ideas:
1. Do not keep them any longer than you have to.
2. Do not tell them everything they need to do, but then give them more time to do it.
3. Do focus on stories, design, and decision making.
4. Do encourage the staff to do anything creative.
5. Do not single out “great teachers.” Good teaching should be celebrated. The fact of the matter is, the best teachers either know they’re good, or are happy to have their skills celebrated in 1-1 meetings.
6. Do not warn them of the impending trials that will challenge them next year like never before. Nothing is more putting off at the end of a long year than telling teachers how much worse next year will be!
7. Do not force staff to watch inspirational videos. Instead, ask them to find their own and share them in their own networks.
8. Focus on the people, not the positions.
9. Let staff tell their personal stories.
10. Focus on teaching and learning.
11. Stick to a small handful of ideas.
12. Let them brag about one another.
13 . Promote their capacity. Do something that initiates a process that will continue after the meeting is over. Connect people to networks. Show them what’s possible. Light a fire.
14. Give them time to collaborate

Finally... And don’t ruin it with a bunch of rules and regulations.

The author of the article Sandeep Dutt takes the onus of the content and the opinions expressed are his alone. You may please email the author on sd@ebd.in for comments if any.
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References:
1. www.diycommitteeguide.org
2. www.skillsyouneed.com
3. www.wikihow.com
4. www.learningforward.org
5. www.whatis.techtarget.com/definition/round-robi
6. www.pinterest.com/aaccservelearn/meeting-ideas
7. Schools Can Change - Dale W. Lick, Karl H. Clauset, Carlene U. Murphy
8. www.educationworld.com
9. www.teachthought.com/
10. www.thefreedictionary.com/talkathon

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