By Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder

One of the things we hear teachers complain most about is the dreaded faculty meeting. We’ve all been part of required staff meetings where we receive a laundry list of items that would have been much more suited to share through an email. Where are the opportunities to grow as a professional? Where are the moments for teachers to work collaboratively with their coworkers and for you, the administrator, to work alongside them? Where are the intersections to share thinking? And how can you make sure you’re utilizing the time wisely?

It all comes down to what you plan and how you sell it. Take the time at faculty meetings to play a game together, something fun and active that will elicit laughter but also has a learning component and allows people to interact. One of our favorite activities is a life-sized version of Hungry Hungry Hippos! Get the staff down on scooters and collecting balls with a laundry basket. You’ll cry from laughing so hard and within the fun you can share the ways your team can take this activity back to use with their students to further learning! For example, putting math equations on the balls and having students solve the ones they collect for points.

In our book, Sparks in the Dark: Lessons, Ideas, and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us, we share another of our favorite ideas. To paraphrase from our book, you can lay out a large selection of children’s books, and specifically but sneakily set out a few that feature diverse characters, and let staff choose a book (with a partner) that speaks to them just by looking at the cover. Have them read the book with their partner and then find another group to book talk their book to. Then use this as a learning opportunity to discuss the books that were selected. What we found our first time doing this is staff were drawn to books with characters that looked/acted like them and didn’t go towards the books with diverse characters. We were able to use that as a discussion on the importance of making sure books we’re introducing to kids (and ourselves!) feature a wide variety of characters who aren’t just white or animals. Very often, we have to be very cognizant of the decisions we make when we select books to share with students.

Another idea involving books is to gather together professional texts that would appeal to instructional coaches, content-area teachers, and other school personnel. Choose several of these books to discuss with the group, then set them loose to peruse the other titles. Give them a moment to read part of one independently or with a partner. When they’ve had time to read a bit of the beginning of the text, ask them to share what they’ve read and how it could possibly stretch their thinking as an educator. Use large pieces of chart paper to collect what they say and post in an area where it is clearly visible, such as a workroom or common area. This allows the faculty meeting to stretch beyond the time constraints and serves as a reminder for learning…just like we do with students!

These are just the tip of the iceberg, but now is the perfect time to re-think how we do faculty meetings. Can we do them better? How can we bring staff together and use that time to learn? Instead of just focusing on relaying information that we could easily include in an email! Light the spark!

Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award winning educator, author and international speaker.

Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.

TEPSA News, August 2019, Vol 76, No 4

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The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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