Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meetings -v- #edchat

I spent an hour tonight participating in #edchat on Twitter.  The ideas come fast and furious, and it's hard to keep up.  These sessions always end with me feeling very energetic and enthusiastic about moving forward and changing my practice in the light of some of the interesting discussions with educators from around the world.  Tonight the #edchat was about faculty meetings.  We started with a question:
What do you believe a worthwhile faculty meeting consists of?

There were many, many ideas and this post is just an attempt to put them into some sort of order.  First of all there was the comment that all faculty meetings are one of the few times that teachers gather in whole groups, therefore the time should be treated as incredibly valuable.  Clearly though, many meetings are not very effective and involve active participation by only a few of those present.  Some of the comments about this were :

  • Staff meetings should be reserved for group learning - anything that can be communicated in email should be. Any meeting that does not allow conversation should be an email or video.
  • Staff meetings are often too much talking at and not enough talking with. 
  • Once you get past 10 people, the meeting doesn't allow for real conversation.
  • Listening keeps popping up! How can faculty meetings effectively make all staff feel as if they are being listened to? 
  • I'd like faculty meetings to be more two-way, interactive, instead of "don't talk and let me tell you."
  • Faculty meetings are often a clinic in poor instruction: passive audience. We teachers need to be more actively questioning and commenting.

There were also many suggestions for making faculty meetings more effective:
  • How about posting the meeting agenda and a brief description before hand so we have a chance to get our thoughts together?
  • Let educators use that time to work together - "flipped" meetings.
  • Using meetings to start PLCs 
  • Some schools are playing with the idea of making their faculty meetings mimic the #edcamp model.
  • Maybe we should develop rubrics for meetings to access their effectiveness. 
  • Meeting notes should be sent out very shortly after the meeting has ended so everyone has same message, not left to interpretation.
  • Let's split the meeting in half and give us the second half to work on whatever we talked about during the first half: ideas into action
  • Do a talents and interests inventory of your staff - find out who is good at what and share.
  • Maybe we should change "meeting" to faculty "collaborations". I'd rather get stuff done than digest lots of info.
  • It seems a common theme is making sure faculty members are engaged - engagement will add value.

There were a couple of comments that made me realise what the main difference between faculty meetings and #edchats are.  First of all my attendance at the weekly #edchats is voluntary:  if I'm not interested in the topic, or if I don't feel it is going to move me forward, I don't need to participate.  Therefore when I do participate I'm ready to contribute and share, and I'm open to the suggestions of others.  I'm sure that for most teachers, however, staff meetings are mandatory.  You have to be there whether or not what is being discussed is relevant or interesting to you, and often you can't really contribute much or have a lot of input into decisions (often the decisions have already been made and the meeting is a vehicle for communicating them).  During the #edchats everyone contributes - all at the same time - it's fast and furious but you get the feeling that your voice is being heard and that others are interested in what you have to say.  You can engage in dialogue and respond directly to some of the other participants in a way that you could not easily do in a meeting.  Finally I read a tweet that mentioned effective ways to run classrooms - these are the same attributes that lead to feeling satisfied by meetings:  they are open, safe, productive, learning and collaborative.

Links were shared to the Making Meetings Meaningful post on the Connected Principals blog which contains more fantastic suggestions for running great meetings.

Photo Credit:  Flickr Vietnamese meeting by Büi Linh Ngân Attribution 

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