Steering the 21C Bus

I have had the opportunity to reflect on my blog posts recently and I have noticed that there has been a tone of whining or complaining in my writing and that is just not me and so, something I need to work on and change. With that in mind I think I will dedicate the next few posts to the positive things that I see going on in education and in our school community specifically.

I had the pleasure of working with our school’s 21C Steering Committee today and last week and it was great to see the amount of energy people have to the prospect of rethinking their profession. It can take a lot to get people geared up for a meeting after school, (myself included) so I always appreciate it when people give of their time to talk about things that are impacting the school.

The initial need for this committee is around the use of and decisions about technology in our school. We have made a rather substantial investment thus far and this committee is needed to advise and set parameters for how and for what purpose this “stuff” will be used. This was the most immediate need and I have been so impressed with people talking about what decisions are best for the staff and the school as a whole, without once actually making a case for their classroom or department. Truly these people are interested in serving their community first and foremost!

My most sincere hope though is that the committee deals with more than just technology. I would love to have a space for people to really talk about ideas associated with 21C and then to devise ways to put these ideas into practice. Talking about plans and how best to implement ideas is so much more rewarding than simply talking about how we can manage the problems and limitations that are before us. I had hoped that this committee would become this, but I was surprised today when it already turned there!

We were talking about our iPad rollout (more to come on that soon!), and then I mentioned that it would be interesting to look at how we could make our staff meetings more about collaboration and creative problem solving than info delivery. This has always been a pet peeve of mine as I would sit at staff meetings that were literally hours long, when most if not all of the agenda could have been covered in an email! In this day and age, there has to be a better reason to get 125 people together than to deliver info!

I mentioned it to the group and the feedback was amazing!! People were talking about how they really enjoyed getting into groups at our previous PD Day to discuss our SLIP goals and how that forum was missing from our traditional meetings. They said how it would be great to learn from each other and to set up a system where the “experts” throughout the staff could lead the rest of the staff on a number of different things. How they liked the format of smaller more intimate groups that would allow for discussion and real learning. This was basically unprompted and I was blown away and so we are proposing a new model.

While I admire some of the things that Joe Clark did in real life, (and I always appreciate Morgan Freeman giving a speech on anything), I think we could probably use this video as an example of what a good staff meeting should NOT be.

The line “no one talks in my staff meetings” is a great one. The worst part in my eyes is not the idea of not talking but the fact that the principal sees them as “his” meetings. This is where I think a lot of models fail because the agenda is set by administration. I think that admin should be on the agenda, but not setting the agenda. A true learning community should have the agenda of their meetings set by the community. This requires a lot of trust and a lot more work by the community. Even though a lot of people can complain about staff meetings, there may be a part of them that likes the passive nature of them. After all these are people that control things for a living. That literally have to come up with plans for every period of the day and I know that there was a part of me that went to staff meetings to relax! I never did marking because I just did not find that relaxing, but I can understand why people do that some times as well. They just don’t feel engaged in the process.

That being said, can a different style of staff meeting work, where the info is delivered in a different forum and the time where staff is together is for an entirely different purpose? What does that look like? How is that sustained? I am not asking hypothetical questions here…I actually want some ideas!!!

I have been so impressed with how my staff has embraced the challenges set before them this year. We have District Review, SSI, IB Self Study and coming soon…SSLN and people are actually excited about it. People are looking for ways to make their work more authentic and reflective of what their students need and the spirit of things is truly infectious. Still looking for ideas to hack our staff meetings but I hope to continue with the positive vibe as we continue on our journey together.

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One Response to Steering the 21C Bus

  1. Been meaning to reply to this blog for awhile Mike but life has been getting in the way. Extra hour today so….Staff meetings have always been something that intrigues me greatly. One of the few things I took from my pqp course was the need to make staff meetings a vibrant opportunity to learn, discuss and share ideas. Like so much else from my years in the classroom, I rarely saw this. Instead staff meetings were sit and listen to large amounts of info that I could easily read via email (this sadly is my experience with most meetings). I was determined that my staff meetings would be different. My first few staff meetings as a principal were vibrant, stand up comedy routines (in my mind) but they were mostly ME. Me setting the agenda. Me talking, and me controlling. Over the years I‘ve tried to move away from this. I sent the agenda out for all to look at and give comments. For divisional meetings, I‘ve even tried sending no agenda but asking div chair to get ideas from people. Not much success either way. Is it possible that similar to how inquiry in the classroom – engaging kids about what they want to learn falls flat because they’ve been so used to us driving the agenda. Same thing for staff. But true engagement and buy in will only happen if others are involved. I think back to the video showed at 21 c shut up and listen. We need to listen more but I do think that world of symbiosis is key because unless others share ideas then nothing can happen. Best engagement I’ve had at a recent staff meeting is when staff were given time to turn and talk about an idea (oh those primary literacy ideas!)

    So have I helped ?Probably not but you’re not alone on the journey. When you find the answer, please send my way as well!

    Enjoying the depth of thoughts in your posts Mike. Keep blogging.

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