Monday, July 19, 2010

Teaching in Isolation and Silence in Staff Meetings

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been staying with my mother for the past week and have been without internet and feeling rather cut off, that I’ve been thinking a lot this week about teachers working in isolation.

At the end of our school year we had several staff meetings where information was given out to us, and where both good and bad news was met with what was mostly silence. Now this could be because we were at the end of a very tough year and the teachers were probably just exhausted. However it could also be because for whatever reason teachers just didn’t want to express themselves openly at these large all-school meetings. This is rather worrying as I’ve always thought that silence in meetings is a bad sign, and that teachers working in isolation is a major problem for schools trying to improve student learning.

Roland Barth writes in Educational Leadership (March 2006) “the nature of relationships among adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else. If the relationships between administrators and teachers are trusting, generous, helpful and cooperative, then the relationships between teachers and students, between students and students and between teachers and parents are likely to be trusting generous, helpful and cooperative. If, on the other hand, relationships between administrators and teachers are fearful, competitive, suspicious and corrosive, then these qualities will disseminate throughout the school community.”

As mentioned before in previous posts, in an IB school everyone should be aspiring to the IB Learner Profile. We are all learners – teachers and administrators as well as students. The aim, therefore, is for us to make our schools into professional learning communities where we work together to improve teaching and learning for all. When our schools become professional learning communities it becomes impossible for teachers to work in isolation or for staff meetings to be silent – as we are all collaborating, sharing the responsibility for and reflecting on how we are meeting our goals. This also puts some responsibility onto the administrators running these meetings, however. Staff meetings shouldn’t really be places where information is passed out (this can be easily done in an email, daily bulletin and so on). Instead they should be places where we are positive and constructive, where we celebrate good practice, share ideas, listen to each other even when we disagree and work towards greater understanding of issues and they should be places where decisions are made with input from all.

Photo Credit:  No Going Back by Mariano Kamp


  1. Really now days mostly human being is connected with the internet and if we don't get connect with net then we feel isolate....
    Monica Sharma

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  2. You are not alone. Our end of the year staff meeting felt the same. It felt like we had been defeated. It was silent and LONG. It was administration telling us what needed to change for next year. It could have been so much better if it had been a time for reflection and dialog about what worked and what didn't during the school year. As it was, we took it in, cleaned our classrooms and checked out. Such a shame!