Professional Development Opinion

Model Best Practice When Leading Team Meetings

By Starr Sackstein — November 26, 2017 3 min read
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As a teacher, I was comfortable making mistakes in front of my students, definitely not at first, but over time, my mistakes became a moment of reflection and experience to enrich our learning environment.

So as a lead learner in my school, these moments are equally as important if not more so.

What I’m learning is that adult learners are a lot harder to inspire, but that doesn’t stop me from modeling practice that I hope they will bring into their classrooms in a way that makes sense to them.

The same way we learn our students and develop relationships with them, building respectful and meaningful relationships with teams requires time and conversations.

I had a lesson plan for my last “department” meeting (that’s what they call monthly meetings in my district) which took the form of an agenda which I shared with my department prior to the meeting. In my classes, I did this too. Students were privy to the actual lesson plan and the resources available. They were allowed to question my decisions and push against the plan. The department had the same opportunity.

What I learned, reflecting back now, is that I should save the announcements part of the meeting for the end as it has the potential to derail the original plan and not necessarily for better learning. I also learned why my old principal used to open each of our faculty meetings with “Connections,” a 3-5 minute share out where people could say what was on their mind, but couldn’t respond to other people who shared. I’m thinking about adopting an iteration of this in our meetings too so that folks can get anything that is on their mind off of it and can be more open to learning in the session.

The meeting or professional learning was also split into a few activities that asked teachers to consider reflection and how we use it professionally. What is the value of it and then later apply that value to how students can benefit from doing it in their process. I provided student examples to really show where it can start and where it can grow. Then I also offered to help teachers teach it to their students if they were going to roll it out.

One thing I’ve heard a lot from my colleagues over the years is that administrators don’t get into classrooms enough to model the behaviors they expect. Having this understanding in the back of my head, I vowed to myself that I would never ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t do myself and therefore offered up my expertise to take into their spaces.

Selfishly, teaching is what I miss most, so if they take me up on helping them roll it out, it is mutually beneficial. Getting into classrooms is helping me develop relationships with the team and the students and I get to be a part of what I love about learning: the conversations that happen, the mess and the creativity.

At the end of the professional learning, I asked that everyone fill out a digital exit ticket that helps me reflect on where I need to help people and to also get to know folks better. After reading their responses, I’ve opened up an opportunity for more dialogue, even with some seemingly resistant learners.

Despite my own discomfort with confrontation, I made sure to follow up with a teacher and I think that it really opened up the possibility of better communication moving forward. I also gained some insight as to how I may help more of the team connect with each other.

I had assumed incorrectly that all of our team knew each other and were comfortable with each other. They aren’t, so I have to do a better job of building team. For our next meeting, it will be important for me do some more ice breaking opportunities to get folks to know each other better. This is the only way we can learn better together.

Rather than get down on myself for not picking up on this sooner or prioritizing it, I will do a better job of intentionally grouping teachers next time and use this opportunity to help develop more trust and capacity with the team while we work on a content area that will be good for all kids.

Transparently, I will share with teachers why I made this choice, as I want them to see my process and not be afraid to shift course. This was my power as a teacher and it will be as my leader too. Hopefully, it will help the team see me as one of them and not just the person who evaluates them.

Learning chances are too precious to waste. I will keep modeling how to make the most of each one, allowing the vulnerability to be visible regardless of how uncomfortable it may feel. We will all be better for it later and there are teachers already coming around.

How do you model what you hope to see and what is the benefit of doing so? Please share.

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