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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Have You Flipped Your Faculty Meeting Yet?

By Peter DeWitt — December 08, 2012 5 min read
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“Principals need to be explicit about what they value. It’s too easy to hide behind platitudes, such as “At our school, every child learns” or “Raising all students to their potential” without talking about what those words mean.” (Hoerr. 2012. p.88).

It’s December, and educators have a few months under their belts. Administrators have done their pre-assessments, and created goals with staff or started their first round of formal observations. Educators have found their momentum with students, and administrators have gotten into their routine. It’s a time when we all feel comfortable with what we are doing which means that we are at risk of following the status quo and doing what we have always done.

As school leaders we all hear the buzz words. We use acronyms like CCSS, APPR and SLO’s during our everyday conversations. Most of the acronyms we use have the potential to become negative because educators and administrators are so tired of accountability, which is another buzz word that enters our daily conversations. One buzz phrase that should not become negative, and needs to have a place on our tool belts, is the flipped faculty meeting. There is great potential in this format.

There are many blogs that focus on flipped classrooms and as with any educational practice and flavor du jour; there are educators who love the idea and others who think it is a waste of time. The reality is that any of these innovations are a waste of time if they are not used correctly. Flipping classrooms is a waste of our time and the time of our students if it is merely a taped lesson that they have to listen to at home rather than school. I feel the same way about flipping faculty meetings.

My First Flipped Faculty Meeting
This summer I was challenged to flip my faculty meeting (Flipped Faculty Meeting) and the first one did not go well. Being that it was the first day of school, many staff members didn’t understand the idea and some did not watch the video before the meeting. This was not their fault because quite honestly, my timing was poor. I sent it out the week before Labor Day Weekend and many teachers were trying to get their rooms ready. They were getting new students, meeting with parents and trying to enjoy the last of their vacation.

Although I was disappointed because I wanted the idea to be successful, I did not give up because I saw the relevance in flipping our meeting and our staff did as well. However, I needed to change my format and how I sent the videos out. I needed to add items that would be engaging and not just items that I thought were important.

As a principal, I don’t think we should stand up in front of the staff and give them the new rules from the state or the list of items they need to finish before the end of the month. I want more for my meetings and they deserve more because they are giving me their time, and time is something that we don’t always have as we are rushing from one thing to another.

Educators work hard and they have plates that are full. If we are going to get together only once a month, it should be about something that is worthwhile. It shouldn’t be about a list that they can read on an e-mail or about something they have to passively sit and listen to. Getting together as a faculty should be about focusing on curriculum and instruction, and more importantly focus on our students. The last time I flipped, which was only a few days ago, was much more successful and the conversation was amazing. The conversations focused on what I see when I enter classrooms and what teachers and students want me to see. I worry that our focus has not always been the same, and I was happy to hear that we were on the same page.

On the Same Page?
Over the past few months as administrators have gone into classrooms to observe teachers and students under new accountability measures, I often wonder if teachers know what principals want to see and whether principals understand what good teaching looks like. Many administrators have been out of the classroom for a number of years and as they gain more experience in the leadership role they are at risk of losing touch with what the classroom experience is like. Although both roles, that of teacher and administrator, are in the same building, they are very different roles.

In On the Same Page, Thomas Hoerr wrote “Do our teachers know what we value? We enter our buildings each morning with beliefs that transcend school policies and teacher evaluation criteria. Is it only the outcomes that matter, or do we give points for effort?"(Educational Leadership. P. 88). When teacher and administrator positions are dependent on test scores and points, it becomes harder to find a balance between what educators feel is important and what they are being scored on. As hard as it is, they need to find a balance between both.

Hoerr goes on to say, “How much do we value students smiling at the beginning and end of the school day? Is student performance on standardized tests an important factor in determining teacher quality-or is it the only factor?” (2012. p. 88). These are the types of questions that need to be discussed at faculty meetings and through flipping, administrators can send out these articles and questions in order to give teachers the proper amount of thinking time so the ultimate conversations are more enriching. Teachers and administrators have to come to a consensus because everyone needs to know what is expected of them.

In the End
The flipped faculty meeting approach offers administrators and educators the opportunity to dig down deeper and get to the heart of what matters in school. The stakes are high and the collective conversations between administrators and staff have to be geared toward a combined goal. It would be great if the combined goal focused on school climate and the social and emotional growth of students.

Where the conversations between administrators and staff are concerned Hoerr says,

Wise people can disagree on how to answer these questions, and good schools can embrace a range of approaches. It's a problem, however, if the principal and teachers hold different beliefs and no one knows it. In such situations, conflict is bound to result. Principals need to be explicit about what they value. It's too easy to hide behind platitudes, such as "At our school, every child learns" or "Raising all students to their potential" without talking about what those words mean." (2012. p.88).

The flipped faculty model gives staff the opportunities to discuss these issues and many others, and it also creates a more positive school culture for all students and staff.

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Hoerr, Thomas(2012). On the Same Page. Educational Leadership. ASCD. Vol. 70. No. 4. pp. 88-89.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.