Ask most teachers about faculty meetings and they'll describe a black hole of boring announcements, fruitless debate, and overwhelming agendas. In short, most of us would rather fall on a fork than attend. But what if faculty meetings could actually inspire and engage? What if they were the high point of the week? It can be done, and here are the 6 key elements to facilitating the fork-free faculty meeting.
1. Space. We have to work within the space we have, of course, but a few small adjustments can go a long way. Make sure the space is clean, that everyone can see everyone else, and consider providing food and drinks. There's something about eating together that builds goodwill and community.
2. Stance. Ask yourself what you're hoping to model as an instructional leader. Get clear about your pedagogical stance and make sure you're walking your talk.
3. Processes. Just like good classrooms are built on reliable systems and structures, a positive faculty meeting should utilize protocols and processes that ensure all voices are heard, that no single voice dominates, and that discussion stays focused and productive . (I personally like the protocols from the School Reform Initiative: http://schoolreforminitiative.org.)
4. Presence. If there's ever a time to be fully present and aware, this is it. Try to set aside your personal agenda, fear, or hoped-for outcome and notice what's really going on in front of you. You might be surprised by what you notice, and you'll be modeling what it is to be fully present as a facilitator. (Learn more about mindfulness practices here: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/just-breathe-when-teachers-practice-mindful....)
5. Clarity. Figure out what you want to achieve in the meeting. What problem needs solving? What issue needs exploring? Keep the agenda brief--only 1-2 topics or questions. If you're using the meeting for announcements, stop. Anything that can be shared by email should be. We all have a limited number of hours on the planet. Choose to respect your team by using them wisely.
6. Courage. Changing the culture around meetings can be nerve wracking. Choosing to be intentional about stance, to limit your time to only the important issues, to insist that everyone engage respectfully and fully--it may not be easy. Start by asking staff if they're satisfied with the use of the time. If you build from what they identify as shortcomings, you'll get better results.
Facilitating--rather the leading--requires a shift in the way we think about staff meetings. If done well, it raises the level of discourse, builds professional culture and community, and models the pedagogical philosophies we want to see in classrooms. How would your meetings be different if you made the shift?