Teacher collaboration and meeting with colleagues for planning and program development is a regular part of most teachers’ days. Teachers are expected to collaboratively plan learning experiences and reflect on how successful they were. Some meetings really need spicing up (here are 11 tips for adding some zest your staff meetings) and often teachers find planning meetings frustrating because it feels like time is wasted, however, the benefits of working together are so important. So, how do you make your collaborative planning meetings productive and beneficial?
Here’s 9 ways:
1. Have a regular time.
Set a regular time for your team meeting or department meeting. Choose a time that suits those involved and try not to waiver too much from that regular time. Meeting attendees can then have the meeting in their timetable and plan accordingly.
2. Have a start and a finish time. And stick to it.
One of the biggest mistakes made when it comes to meetings is that they don’t start on time and they don’t finish on time, or even worse, they have no official finishing time. We’ve all been in meetings that just drag on and on and when this happens, the ‘productive’ part of the meeting has well and truly passed. Start and finish on time. Full stop.
3. Identify roles
Do the meeting attendees know what is expected of them? Do they know what they are supposed to accomplish as a result of attending the meeting? One of the best teacher collaboration strategies for creating ownership and engagement is to give each teacher a specific role in the meeting. Perhaps they take notes, or make lists, or bring snacks 🙂 (see next point). This will also help team members to develop initiative.
4. Bring snacks
Sometimes having a few snacks and allowing people to have a cup of tea or coffee can help everyone feel relaxed and get them engaged and ready to have a productive meeting. If having a snack isn’t appropriate or the timing isn’t right (for example right after lunch) then think of a way to help everyone feel relaxed and engaged and ready to contribute to a super productive meeting.
5. Make it relevant
The most common frustration I hear from teachers regarding teacher collaboration is that they have to attend meetings that are a ‘waste of time’. Meetings that lack relevance are incredibly frustrating and quickly destabilize positive staff morale. Taking a moment to self-reflect is important. A great question to ask yourself at the end of the meeting is: In what ways did this specifically help each of the meeting attendees today?
6. Set and send an agenda prior to the meeting
For everyone to get maximum benefit from the meeting, having a pre-set agenda is crucial. When those attending the meeting know what is to be accomplished, they can be mentally thinking about it prior to the meeting actually starting. It means that each attendee has already partially prepared. Having an agenda also ‘forces’ everyone to think about what is really important and what really needs to get done.
7. Be inquisitive not judgmental
Vigorous discussion should not be shied away from, but rather embraced and encouraged IF everyone takes an inquisitive attitude. This means that when people share their opinion, instead of being quick to judge and quick to discount, an inquisitive and curious attitude is adopted. Meeting attendees ask questions and make open ended statements, such as: ‘Tell me more about that’, ‘In what way would your suggestion help?’, ‘I’m curious to know more about…’ These statements allow the person who is contributing to openly share and speak without feeling like they have to fight to be heard. Adopt an inquisitive attitude when collaborating with teachers.
8. Allow everyone to contribute
One of the quickest ways to create buy-in and ownership is to create a meeting environment that encourages and embraces everyone’s contribution. People feel valued when they have an opportunity to be part of what is happening around them. Of course, not every person can contribute at every single meeting, but the important thing is to establish a culture that rewards and values contribution.
9. End the meeting on a positive note.
Always find a way to end the meeting on a positive note. Don’t allow the meeting attendees to walk away feeling disgruntled and unheard. Think of a way to end the meeting in an energetic and motivational way. Remember your words create your world and this significantly influences the ‘worlds’ of those around you.
To think about this week:
If you are the meeting LEADER, identify two things you can do in your meeting this week to make it even more beneficial for those attending.
If you are a meeting ATTENDEE, think about what positive contribution YOU can make to help the meeting be more productive and more enjoyable.
Enjoy the journey,
And more importantly,
Enjoy the moments.