I read this great post by Kristen Swanson yesterday on collaborative meetings. She shared some great insights from a meeting she attended on what should be done at a faculty meeting. Here were some of her suggestions:
- Give people an agenda with specific times and goals relative to each component of the meeting. Setting these expectations helps people to understand how and when they can best contribute. It helps people understand why they are there and values their time.
- Put the school/department/classroom mission on the top of the paper. Use it as a tool to steer conversation in positive directions when it gets off track.
- Have people self select specific roles to make the meeting run more smoothly. For example, have people volunteer to be timekeepers, note takers, or prodders. (Prodder is my favorite role. That person should ask provocative questions or keep conversation moving forward when it’s stuck.)
- Design the space and the size of the meeting to allow for extended dialogue. Groups shouldn’t be too large and the furniture should allow for people to have eye contact with comfort.
- Use language that honors and values people throughout the meeting. Shut down dialogue that is disrespectful to students or colleagues.
I have always hated staff meetings and as principal, I tried to keep them short and sweet. My philosophy was that if I could email you the information, I would email you the information. From reading Kristen’s post though, I tweeted out the following statement.
On staff meetings…We don’t need to focus on them being “fun” as much as they are “meaningful”. Ice breaker activities are not 4 everybody.
— George Couros (@gcouros) September 17, 2012
Seriously, the worst words that I personally can hear at a staff meeting are “Ok everybody, I want you to get up!”
It gives me instant anxiety when I think I am going to have to do something embarrassing in front of my colleagues. I don’t think that meetings have to be all business all the time and I encourage a light hearted nature as you can get into some pretty heavy topics. But the focus should not being on making them “fun”, but as I said, “meaningful” to participants. I know the intention between many ice-breaker activities is extremely important and focused on building teams, but I also think that you can build those connections in meetings in other ways.
I want to respect the shortness of time that many educators have and then focus on making the content engaging enough that they want to be there. That is a tough task, but do you think that if you show how much you respect your staff to have meetings that are short and engaging, do you think that will help build connections? What about meaningful conversations? Won’t that help build connections? I know that many people think that these ice breaker activities are great ways to break up the meeting but is that sometimes because the meeting is so boring? The focus should be on making that meeting relevant.
Many might comment here and say, “Well I like…”, but remember, it is not about the person putting on the meeting, but the people attending the meeting and what they feel comfortable with.
Am I crazy or is anyone with me on this?