The first staff day of school = staff meetings. Excitement or drudgery? Inspirational or procedure-driven?
The first staff meeting is a crucial one. It is where we set the tone for the school year. It is where we inspire, build excitement for the upcoming school year, and where we ensure we are all on the same page. I spend two weeks building the presentation, making sure every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted. I find inspirational videos, quotes, make activities, and fill in policies and procedures where I can. I make copies of sign-off sheets, sign-up sheets, and schedules galore.
When all is said and done, this meeting can easily last 2 hours. And it is jammed with information, so much information that it is overloaded and overwhelming. I know I have sat through staff meetings and walked away wondering where to start!
This first staff meeting is so important, but it also can’t be a long meeting. Let’s think about our kids for a moment. They don’t want to sit through a long lecture. So, many administrators try to break up the long staff meeting with activities and videos. I know I have done this numerous times. I step back and think, “What would my staff say about the first staff meeting of the school year?” They would probably say this – fun, informative, but long. Time is precious.
On the first days of school, teachers want and need to be in their classrooms getting ready for the start of school. Their first impression with students and parents is just as important as the first staff meeting’s first impression. In addition, this is valuable time to continue the collaborative processes with colleagues in their teams.
Ultimately, there is a need to make better use of the time during the first staff days, however, we still want to meet as a staff to bring together our vision and drive for the new school year.
So, how can we maximize time, cover all we need to cover with policies, procedures, and vision, and still inspire and create excitement for the upcoming school year?
The term “flip” in instruction refers to utilizing the teacher’s and student’s time differently by providing more opportunities for discussion and practice in the teacher’s presence versus listening to a lecture during class time. In the classroom, flipping a lesson is fundamentally defined by giving students the instruction at home via a tutorial or video, and then practicing or discussing the instruction during class time when the teacher is present to answer questions. The same content and curriculum are covered, just in a different way, giving students an opportunity to practice, discuss, and reflect on the content in class with the teacher. In essence, the “instruction/lecture” happens at home, while the “homework/practice” occurs at school.
I have seen teachers use this method, and the results are outstanding. Not only are students engaged, asking questions, and getting the help they need, but the use of time can be more effective and efficient.
And so, I recently have been reading about and seeing more administrators flip their staff meetings, using the time with their staff differently, allocating more time on discussion and reflection, building their vision together, thus spending less time on procedures and policies.
As a leader in my school, I strive to model risk-taking and learning along with my staff. By flipping our staff meeting, I am modeling the growth mindset, trying something new, and gaining feedback from it.
I’m sure many of us have looked up how-to videos or videos of inspiration on YouTube. With a quick search, I can find thousands of videos on any given topic. In addition, I used to think creating these videos for YouTube was difficult or time-consuming. However, there are many wonderful resources and tools out there to make this very easy with a click of a button. And sharing these videos is extremely easy as well.
And so, with today’s technology and resources, it is extremely easy to make more efficient use of our time. Using that technology, we can create videos for our staff to view on their own time, maximizing the time in their classroom to focus on their students.
The key to flipping any staff meeting or information is knowing exactly what you want to accomplish. If the purpose is to review a few procedures for the upcoming school year, then the delivery needs to be detailed enough for all staff to follow, yet not too short or too long that it becomes difficult to understand.
In addition, it is imperative to follow-up on this kind of information delivery. Just like in a classroom, we would not leave our students to figure it out on their own after watching a video. There is follow-up in the classroom the next day to address questions and concerns. Throughout the flip, it is imperative to remind staff to ask questions or give them a forum to do so. Discussion and reflection are critical pieces to a successful flip.
Here is how I have made it work this year for my staff:
First, I planned my vision for the flipped staff meeting, writing it on paper so I had a clear idea of what exactly I wanted to present to my staff.
After I established my vision for the presentation videos, I began to build the presentations. For example, I took information from my staff handbook and created a Google presentation slideshow with this information. Each slide covered a different topic. In essence, it looked very much like the PowerPoint presentations I had given in the past, filled with procedures and important information to start the school year. In total, I made 4 presentations (such as the overview of the bullying law, our math incentive program, and the staff handbook procedures), each was a smaller presentation from “bigger” procedural presentation.
After I created the Google presentations, it was then time to screencast them. There are many tools to use to screencast a presentation, and many are free and very easy to use. I used Screencastify, a Google Chrome Extension. I was quite apprehensive about screencasting at first, but the tools and resources made it very simple. With a click of a button and a headset with a microphone hooked to my computer, I was able to play the Google presentation on my computer and talk through each slide as if I had my staff in front of me. Once I pushed stop and saved the video to my Google Drive, the video was created!
I took a couple of extra steps to ensure it was easy for my staff to view the video presentation and document this. Once I had the video saved to my Drive, I uploaded it to YouTube as an unlisted link. This link is yet another way to share the information with my staff.
Next, I started a new Google presentation with a simple topic slide, and then embedded the YouTube video on the second slide of the presentation. The third slideprovided a link to a Google Form where staff could electronically sign their name that they had watched and understood the contents of the video.
This second Google presentation is what I have shared with my staff through my Google Site and through the share feature in Google Drive. I wrote an email giving details on how to get to the video presentations as well as explain the expectation of watching them.
The flip is complete!
While there are a few extra steps in flipping the staff meetings, there are many more positive advantages.
First, the flip of the first staff meeting is saving the teacher’s time, giving them more time to work in their classrooms and collaborate with their colleagues. I spent a little more time creating these video presentations versus a regular presentation, but this is time given back to teachers, thereby helping them feel more prepared for the first day for our students. Ultimately, our students benefit.
Second, the time in our first staff meeting is spent now on reflection, discussion, the vision for the future, and our action plan for the school year. Instead of requiring my staff to sit through 40 minutes of procedures and required training videos, we can now have meaningful discussions about the shorter videos already viewed through the flip and allow for other collaborative discussions about the upcoming school year. My goal in that first staff meeting is to instill excitement for the school year, without overwhelming them. We can touch on topics from the videos, but more for discussion and clarification. I do not want my staff to walk away from this meeting overwhelmed; I want them walking away recharged and with purpose.
Finally, by flipping the procedural aspects, the staff now has another reference to go to in case they have a question later. There is no need to dig through a stack of notes lost on the teacher’s desk because the video is available at any time and on any device. There are many avenues to find this information, thus making the information easier to find.
Furthermore, there is one extra benefit from flipping staff meetings. As a leader in my school, I strive to model risk-taking and learning along with my staff. By flipping our staff meeting, I am modeling the growth mindset, trying something new, and gaining feedback from it.
After my staff’s feedback from this delivery method, I will hopefully continue flipping staff meetings and information, giving our actual staff meetings time for reflection and discussion. It is a powerful avenue for staff development and growth, building more opportunities to expand our efforts in making our school the best it can be for our students.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Waag Society.