Take a Vow and Set the Tone

It was last year around this time that I talked about the start of meeting season. This was my call for all leaders to engage in a little activity to determine whether we are meeting because its a ritual, a long lasting tradition of the hierarchy of schools or whether we are meeting to enhance the learning community.

Unfortunately, the culture of any organization can be too strong to shift such a legacy concept like the dreaded meeting season. So, I have two challenges for the start of this year as we continue to shift our precious time together to meaningful growth in leading, learning, and teaching.

A Vow to Teachers and Students

First, I lay this challenge down to myself along with any other instructional leader: make a vow with your teachers and students not to attend or leave any meeting that could just as easily be covered with a memo. After all, a key reason we leave the classroom for administration is to get closer to more classrooms not deeper in meetings and paperwork.

Stop sitting through a meeting where decisions have already been made, information is being disseminated, and former meetings are being explained. Instead, spend your time observing classroom learning and providing instructional feedback, discussing aspects of your school with students and teachers, enjoying time observing students in activities or athletics, or visiting informal learning spaces to better understand school, students, and educators.

This does not mean to storm out of a meeting and act disrespectful . It is meant to say pay more attention to those agendas and appointments that make it into your email box. It is okay to click “decline”. Let me say that again. It is okay to click “decline”. Simply click decline and state that you will be using this time to focus on instructional leadership and identify exactly what you will be doing that you would be willing to share at a future meeting.

Meetings are not all bad – quite the opposite. Good ones are focused on organizational progress based upon legitimate dialogue and discussion that enhance instruction and lead to greater student success. However, those meetings that fall outside this scope waste the creative and intellectual capacity of the very people expected to use such strengths as instructional leaders. Those meetings block creativity, brainstorming, wonder, play, risk-taking, and innovation.

Break free from the meaningless meetings in order to leverage your genius for the betterment of the students, educators, and community. Break free from the meaningless meetings to find your “me” again even if others stay in the meeting mindset.

Set the Tone

Second, I challenge those that structure “All Faculty Meetings” to consider these as community learning, celebrating, and growing opportunities. Do not treat these as a time for one person after another to stand in front of a large group sharing information. Instead, I encourage you to consider the following:

  1. Create an agenda that does not include any one-way information delivery outside of a motivational/inspirational opening (brief)
  2. Establish activities that ignite the interests and passions of faculty, that challenge mindsets and frames of reference, and that spark dialogue and discussion well beyond the time spent together
  3. Send an email that includes the agenda, any one-way information, and Ignite Prompts that get people into a learning frame of mind
  4. Utilize the opportunities as a community to push to new levels, to begin breaking the boundaries that are stifling progress.
  5. Provide times and opportunities to extend these starting points
  6. Seek feedback from faculty on the effectiveness of faculty meetings and what could be done to create stronger learning opportunities

What do you think? Are these possible? Will these make a difference in the lives of students and teachers? in the life of the school community?

It only takes you to make this happen. Will you? Be Bold and Rethink!

cc licensed flickr photo by Melvin_Es: http://flickr.com/photos/50521389@N08/4661794332/


    • @ryanbretag Couldn’t have come at a better time. My district wants to increase # of meetings & their length. :-/

  1. Great post, Ryan. Our “discussion” on twitter has me thinking, as well…Your “considerations” at the end are wonderful. In order to do those things, ed leaders need to think through some of the nuts and bolts, as they would if they were still in the classroom. How will you best group your faculty to nurture the enriching activities/conversations you hope to facilitate? Can they sit in any group? Or do the leaders know the teaching staff well enough to put them together appropriately based on the objective… Is there differentiated instruction being used in the meeting (lesson) planning? The first meeting will be the most important in terms of capturing them and inspiring them for the first day of classes and for the rest of the year’s meetings. How do you pull them in? (For our school, how will this work with tech training being the end of Monday? Yuck…) Most importantly, in order for these discussions to feed themselves, getting feedback from the staff is one step. Actually using that feedback consistently and in a meaningful manner is quite another…Therein lies the greatest challenge once the guts of the school year is upon us!

    With that said, I LOVE your vow and your challenge. (I’ve done this before with both positive and negative response.) It really can be a strong reminder just how important it is, and how challenging it can be, to prepare for a meeting as an instructional leader. I think you will be great! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you Ryan, and also for the very sweet cartoon.

    From the teacher perspective, let me echo your pleas: let’s have meetings that build community, a sense of common purpose, that bring outside ideas in, that inspire us to think and reflect, move forward together.

    But to do this, we have to have core understandings and norms that are enforced for it to be a safe and productive way forward. Leaders, apply what worked well to organize class rooms to running meetings with faculty. Don’t just show up and talk at us. Don’t let the bossy, the mean and the discontented run it. That’s not who most of us are.

    I’d love staff development to train all the staff to run meetings so a. They understand what it’s like and b. so you can distribute leadership.



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