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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

The Flipped Faculty Meeting

By Peter DeWitt — September 02, 2012 5 min read
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Principals set the tone every day and the flipped model could represent a symbolic way of telling adults that we still have to be innovative, and it’s really hard for a principal to preach innovation if they aren’t using it in the venues they lead.

Faculty meetings are as good or as bad as we want them to be. Some faculty meetings can be a time when there are great discussions about education and we feel as though we are a part of inspirational moments that we would only find in the Dead Poet’s Society. Other times they are an example of bad behavior because adults have sidebars or they argue back and forth, or the principal is like Ben Stein in the famous scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where he just drones on and on.

Most faculty meetings have the same format. The principal sends out an agenda 24 hours before the meeting so the staff can see the list of items they will discuss. At the beginning of the year they may sign up for specific months to bring food so the meeting feels more personal. I have some awesome cooks and bakers on staff so the food at our meetings is always top-notch.

Meetings where principals and staff get together doesn’t happen as often as it should. Most faculty meetings last about 45 minutes to an hour and only happen once a month. A lot can happen in education over a month so there are times when important issues can get lost when the new ones come up. Over the years I have included quick videos to make people laugh during more stressful months. Other times the meetings are quiet because people are overwhelmed so we get those over with quickly.

Unfortunately, I came to the conclusion this summer that my meetings, although nice, are not always worth the time the faculty takes to attend them, so I am flipping them this year. During a year with so many changes in education, I need them to our staff meetings to be different. They need to be more authentic and engaging.

Why Flip the Faculty Meeting?

Innovative learning requires that you trust yourself, that you be self-directed rather than other-directed in both your life and work.” Warren Bennis

There are many blogs and articles about flipping the classroom (The Flipped Classroom). At first, it sounded like more of a fad than anything worthwhile. However, the more the cynic in me stayed out of the way, the more the creative side thought that this was a good model to use. Flipping the classroom can take the lecture out of the classroom and replace it with more in-depth student centered conversations about important topics.

Teachers are using the flipped approach so like any good principal I sent my fifth grade teachers the challenge of trying the model during this school year. Then the plan somehow backfired on me because David Culberhouse, a senior director of elementary education in California (The Next Step) sent me a challenge through Twitter. He asked me when I was going to flip my faculty meetings and he was referring to a blog he had read the month before.

In reading North Carolina teacher Bill Ferriter’s Tempered Radical Blog, he posed a challenged to principals to flip their meetings and this year I’m taking the challenge (What if you Flipped Your Faculty Meetings?). A few weeks ago I researched different software to use so I could engage staff. I have done a few webinars and enjoy using links, videos and Power Points so I decided to use Screenr.

In about fifteen minutes I created a Power Point of all the items I thought staff should know at our first faculty meeting (i.e. procedures, dates and notes from the office, etc.) and used Screenr which basically allows the presenter to put a box around the Power Point, press record and they are on their way to creating a flipped faculty meeting model. I kept my recording to 8 minutes and sent the link through e-mail. In the recording I told staff that we would be meeting on the first day of school in our first official faculty meeting to discuss APPR, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and the New York State Growth Model more at length.

Those topics are very important to our existence as educators right now and the faculty meeting is the most important place to discuss those issues. Every principal and staff has topics they should discuss at length, so the flipped model is worth trying once to see if it makes those faculty conversations more authentic.

When doing the flipped faculty model, consider the following:

Why are you flipping your meeting? Don’t do it because it is the new thing to do. Flip your meeting because you want to focus on a couple of topics more at length in the actual meeting.

How long do you record yourself? It seems like 15 minutes might not be a long time but when you’re the one talking it goes by fast. Unfortunately, when you’re the one watching it may seem too long. Try to keep the flipped portion down to 10 minutes or less. Remember, the flipped portion is setting the stage for the actual meeting. It’s not meant to make meetings longer but more productive.

What are you using to flip your meeting? Principals have to use what they are comfortable with and I ended up using Screenr because it allowed me to use a Power Point and record myself without the staff having to look at me. There are many other tools out there. If you’re using Screenr, be advised that the free version only allows 5 minutes. You will have to pay a small monthly fee to get the longer version, so make sure it will be worth it.

Who will benefit from the experience? Both the principal and the staff should benefit from the experience. I’m not an expert because I have only done it once but I am planning on tackling different topics in different ways through the flipped model.

What topics need more discussion? It’s easy right now to find topics that need more discussion. APPR and CCSS are two topics I felt needed our time and effort. During a year there are many topics worth discussing at length.

In the End

It seems in education that there are many reasons not to step outside our comfort zones and try something new. It’s an easy time to play it safe and keep faculty meetings short and to the point. Unfortunately we are teaching our staff that risk taking isn’t worth it anymore and that is the wrong message to send. There is one major reason not to follow the status quo...our school community.

Our students deserve more than people who play it safe and our staffs deserve principals who will lead the way in trying something innovative. Principals set the tone every day and the flipped model could represent a symbolic way of telling adults that we still have to be innovative, and it’s really hard for a principal to preach innovation if they aren’t using it in the venues they lead. Try it once and see what happens.

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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.