Education Opinion

Take a Vow and Set the Tone

By LeaderTalk Contributor — August 14, 2010 3 min read
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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 gets 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!

Ryan Bretag
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Glenbrook North High School
Blog: Metanoia
Twitter: ryanbretag

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

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