in one sentence

This post, the effective-school-staff-meeting,  provides a comprehensive guide to school administrators, head teachers, principals, head of departments, committee chairs and school group leaders for convening and managing meaningful school staff meetings.

It will also be handy for the member of a school community, either students or teacher that may one day assume a leadership role in a school. The guide should provide observation or suggestion tips for such members of a school community in subsequent meetings. More so and even though the author uses words that may be peculiar to school environment, it is applicable to leaders of any organized group of people. Invariably it is for every one!

Introduction to the effective-school-staff-meeting

Good and important as school staff meeting could be, it is still one of the most frustrating moments for school staff or team members. It is not an uncommon experience for some staff or team members to wish not to attend a particular meeting neither is it rare to see absent-minded staff in meetings. Some of the staff just wishes the convener could just end the meeting few minutes after commencement. We’ve all been in such meetings at several times in the past.

This is probably so because many of the previously held meetings in the school are unproductive. In such unproductive meetings, there is too much waste of time. People just talk, talk and talk with little follow-up action. It features empty proposals and suggestions and towards the end, even if it is yet to reach the overstayed period, more than half the members may have become tired. Too often, members of staff are left with the question of whether the meeting is necessary at all.

Structure of the effective-school-staff-meeting

In order for this effective-school-staff-meeting guide to be most meaningful, we will start with the importance of school staff meeting, then some reasons school staff meeting is unproductive. Afterwards, we will look at the step by step guide a school staff meeting convener needs to adopt in organizing and managing more meaningful school staff meeting in future. If you are not a direct organizer of one, the information you get from here may either become your contribution in your next meeting or part of suggestion you could make to the meeting organizer in your school.

Reasons or Importance of School Staff Meeting

The importance of school staff meeting or meeting of team members cannot be overemphasized. Any school or organization that wants to grow must call for periodic meeting between her staff for the following reasons among others.

  • Giving out information in an efficient way – not office gossips
  • Making decisions pertaining to school policies, objectives of the school and the activities and programs as well as setting standards.
  • Brainstorming, sharing ideas and strategies, giving suggestions and presenting proposals on effective ways to implement plans, drawing and adopting action plans.
  • Solving problems that have a bearing on the growth of the school and her members
  • Motivating members or promoting team spirit in carrying out programs to realize the objectives of the school.

In a deliberate attempt to keep this post as short as possible, I choose not to elaborate on these points. Notwithstanding, you should go over the points once more and try to consider the scope of each. No doubt, you will agree that meeting is a key component of any progressive school or organization.

But why then is school staff meeting unproductive? What is/are the cause(s)? Let’s take a look at that.

Why most school staff meeting is unproductive

Ideally, it cannot be said that one reason is responsible for the failure of many school staff meetings. However, the multiple reasons school staff meeting fails is attributable to the inefficiency of two people – the organizers (i.e. school heads) and the participants (i.e. teachers).

How School Staff Meeting Conveners Make it Fail

In some schools, meeting conveners are the major cause of the failure of many meetings. They do this in two ways:

1.        Turning Meeting to Briefing

This is more common in big and average schools than in small schools. In fact, the higher up a school is in stratification, the higher is the level in which this happens.

By turning meeting to briefing I mean the act of not allowing EVERY participating member to make contribution freely. In such schools, the actual meeting is only held between the top officials – proprietor/proprietress, director, principals or head teachers, HODs etc.

These officials hold the meeting in two ways. They either meets before joining the rest of the teachers or they discuss while in the midst of the teachers i.e. in what is supposed to be a general meeting. Whatever, they (the officials) agree on, is then announced to the rest of the teachers (the teachers are briefed).

If the ‘executives meeting’ is held the former way, then they keep non-executive teachers waiting – I know of a very highly placed school where teachers wait for 2-3 hours before the arrival of the executives. If however, the later way of ‘executives meeting’ is adopted, then the rest of the teachers are not only made to feel stupid but also irrelevant.

Whichever way, the idea of holding a sub meeting of executives in general school staff meeting makes the general meeting un-meaningful, irrelevant and uninteresting. If everyone doesn’t have to be part of the discussion then everyone doesn’t have to be part of the meeting. I am sure they will be more grateful if you would just hold your executive meeting and then relate the executives’ resolution rater than keeping them waiting (looking stupid and irrelevant) while you meet.

2.        Not planning

This is the second way school staff meeting organizers makes meetings to fail. Even though some may have fixed meeting dates/days, many still fail to plan for the meeting and also to plan the meeting. Even if the essence of the meeting is to brief or announce executives’ resolution (s) to the teachers, there ought to be adequate planning. In the absence of planning, many things go wrong and participant loss interest in the meeting too soon for it to achieve anything worthwhile.

Later in this post, I will provide a step by step guide on how to plan for a meeting as well as the meeting itself. However, let’s first look at how participants makes school staff meetings fail.

How Meeting Participants Make School Staff Meeting Fail

As noted earlier, meeting is not one people’s affair. Instead, it is the business of two or more set of people. It is the dealing between the organizers and the attendees. As a result, the success and failure of such dealing depends on both parties. No matter how well the organizer (s) prepare(s) for meeting, it will still be a failure if the attendees fail to do their homework.

Summarily, there is only one way meeting attendees make meetings fail. This is by not planning for the meeting.

Not planning for the meeting

It is true that attendees usually do not plan a meeting. Also true is the fact that meeting organizers may be responsible for attendees’ act of not preparing for a meeting. Nonetheless, some attendees would just not prepare for a meeting – it is simply not their habit! Even if the organizers do all that is their role to do.

This singular act of not planning for school staff meeting by the attendees (teachers); leads to several odd behaviors that place the success of the meeting at stake. Some of these odd behaviors are:

1.        Arriving late at the meeting

How can they be punctual when they did not plan for the meeting? The kind of meeting attendee that would not prepare for a meeting usually rushes down when has commenced.

2.        Coming along with unfinished works

I have convened several school staff meetings in which some of my teachers come to the meeting with leftover of notes to mark. I bet they cannot effectively double themselves in this case.

3.        Being un-contributive

What meaningful thing can they contribute when they did not prepare for the meeting? Being unprepared also means they did not do underground work on the topic (s) of discussion (if at all they remember). It also implies that they did not read the minutes of the previous meeting or were they punctual enough to hear the secretary take it. All these compound into such an attendee being un-contributive at the meeting.

Similar to an attendee being un-contributive due to unpreparedness, is being unspoken due to timidity. I have also found out that some school staff meeting attendees is rather too timid for the status of a teacher. This timid set of attendees does not contribute to school staff meeting not because they lack what to say but because they are too apprehensive to say it. This form of being un-contributive too is no help to the success of school staff meetings.

4.        Initiating side talks

Yes, the unprepared attendees are often the ones to initiates side talks, gossips and murmurs. They may do this unintentionally – when they ask the punctual, attentive and active attendees to brief, remind or clarify a point. Also, if they are neither contributing nor following the discussion; then it will naturally turn out uninteresting to them. In response, they murmur. Finally, because they did not plan for the meeting, they are likely to fix another (external) appointment at a time too close to the meeting. Hence, they often obtain permission to leave before the close of the meeting – although some may be due to other official matters. If not permitted, they are first to complain of having other things to do or time.

And those are the reasons most school staff meeting as well as other meetings fail: when the organizers and attendees fail to do what they ought to do properly leading them to do what they ought not to do.

Now, how may one make effective-school-staff-meeting more meaningful?

The answer – one may make effective-school-staff-meeting more meaningful by planning both the meeting and for the meeting adequately.

Planning a meeting

Planning the meeting actually means planning the discussion. This implies what to discuss and the shape of the discussion. Consequently, the first three steps towards a successful school staff meeting are as given below.

1st Step:  List out the objectives of the meeting

Here, the organizer has to answer questions such as why do I have to call this meeting?

Is it for the attendants to deliberate on an issue or some issues? What are the issues? List them out.

Is it to give out information? Would this piece or pieces of information invoke participants’ reaction? Can the information be communicated by other means such as internal memo, text messages, emails etc. without harming its purpose? Write down the information. And if it does not require a meeting then you do not have to call a meeting.

Is the meeting to promote team spirit, motivate the staff or share new work strategies? Write this down also together with the topic as clear as possible.

Whatever the reason of the meeting is, it should be stated in such a way that participants will be able to know at a glance.

2nd Step: Prepare questions to pose on

For a discussion meeting, the organizers should draw up some open-ended questions based on each topic. These questions spur participation or contribution of participants. And at the meeting, a particular question may be directed at a particular member to ensure even ground of contribution. Issues upon which decisions have to be taken need to be thought of and written out earlier. This will help all participants understand the issues clearly and little time is wasted.

3rd Step: Set specific and clear agenda

The meeting agenda is the planned order of progression. What is the first thing to be done once all members are on seat and the next? The agenda should be clearly put out in a concise and numbered order. In drawing the agenda, one’s priority list is a key consideration. The most important items should be listed first with the least important at the end. It is also good to have the agenda clearly written on a board in the front part of the meeting hall or room.

Now that is it for planning a meeting. If you do all the things I mentioned in step 1through 3 accordingly, then you would have planned the meeting. However, all is not set for the meeting. You need to do a couple more things for the meeting to be hitch free. These things which are I discussed below should be done before the meeting commences.

Planning for the commencement of the meeting

4th Step:  Send meeting notification and distribute agenda

Participants have to be notified early about the meeting so that they can plan their schedules. Meeting notification should carry the objective (s) of the meeting and the agenda so that the participants come prepared. If there is anything that the participants have to read, attach it to the notification. Finally, the notification should remind participants to read the minutes of previous meeting and possibly bring them along.

5th Step:  Get ready any audio-visuals

Next in the line of action is to source and get all essential materials ready. A whiteboard together with a marker and a duster are essential. Other audio-visual aids such as projector, screen, charts and models should be sourced, be made ready and tested earlier.

6th Step: Prepare the place of meeting

The objectives of a meeting are sometimes defeated by the inappropriateness of the meeting place. Imagine the noisiness of a room with unbalanced seats that scratches on the surface of the floor. Or rather a dirty and poorly ventilated room where participants have to fight for comfort. Such arrangements occasionally detract the participants.

The meeting place should be clean, bright and well-ventilated. The seats should be arranged properly so that all participants can see and hear one another clearly. Should a microphone or P.A system be required, this has to be prepared and tested out before the commencement of the meeting.

Note the meeting place should NOT be prepared only at the last minute!

The Meeting: Steering towards target

With the meeting place in order, you are all set for the meeting to commence. Nevertheless, there is still tendency for things to go wild if no proper control is administered during the meeting.  I discussed some of the steering mechanisms or exercises below.

Start the meeting on time

Punctuality has to be stressed and observed not only by the participants but all parties. As noted under the fault of meeting organizers, sometimes the chairperson or other key member is late themselves.

Except if such executives are content with the present level of their school and seek no further growth; then they must take their staff opinions serious. And if they do, they would not keep the staff waiting in meetings so as to meet them at a good frame of mind, happy and ready to contribute freely.

Welcome address should encourage participation

Although how free the staff will feel to contribute at the meeting greatly depends on how the management relates with them under normal circumstances, the opening message to every member should be that of inspiration. The chairperson should motivate the participants to feel free to air their opinion in all matters that will be discussed.

Sometimes the chairperson has to assure the participant of his/her readiness to accept all contribution honestly. The atmosphere also has to be different from normal formal setup. Research reveals that more is achieved in an informal meeting setting than in formal ones.

Ensure minutes are taken

Minutes of meetings have to be clear, concise and accurate. They ought to be well-structured and arranged in proper order.

All decisions taken on issues need to be recorded without any ambiguity. Good minutes convey to members clear information, proposals, solutions to problems and decisions taken.

Limit time for each item

Sometimes meetings are overstayed because all the agenda items cannot be covered on time. Suitable time limits should be allocated for the various agenda items according to their importance. When time is running out for a particular item, the discussion on the item can be summarized to the details.

Stick to agenda

Even in a meeting of the most civilized and ordered people there are tendency to indulge in too much ramblings and discussion of irrelevant matters – deviation from the agenda. The chairperson has to ensure to keep track of the agenda and to control and bring back the meeting should it stray too far away.

Close meeting well

The chairperson has to ensure that the meeting finishes as scheduled and does not unnecessarily drag on. At the close, proposals and decisions are summarized, reminders on actions to be taken and by whom are assigned. Probably, the date and time of next meeting is also fixed. In conclusion, the chairperson expresses a word of thanks to the participants.

And this brings us to the end of the guide. Hopefully, it should lead you to a successful meeting.

Remember to ensure that the minute of the meeting is sent to every participant some time before the following meeting. This is to remind them of the actions to be taken by specified individuals as decided in the meeting. The absentees should also receive minute and important decisions taken should be explained to them.

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