As the new school year begins and gets under way one thing is for certain…. STEAM leaders will be attending and leading meetings. Have you ever been in a non-productive meeting? Have you ever been in a productive meeting? Have you ever had a meeting about a meeting? Have you ever said “that meeting was a waste of my time”? Does this all sound familiar?
What seemed like more times than I would like to admit I always found myself in meetings. In fact, in more than one instance I had back to back meetings from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm three days in a row in one week. By the time I was able to get back to my desk, I had an email inbox that was exploding, a folder of items to sign that was overflowing, and at least a handful of staff that stopped by to see me during the day that wanted some face-time in order to get feedback or help them solve a problem. When do you have time to reflect? When do you have time to do your own work? When do you have time to follow-up from the previous meeting and plan for the next one? When do you have time to think…really deep creative thinking? We used to have a saying “Sleep fast”!
We often take it for granted that everyone knows how to conduct an effective meeting. The reality is that meetings take time and when used effectively can be a powerful tool for communicating clarity, expectations, directions and allow opportunities to build collaboration, trust, and critical feedback for moving forward. When you reflect on planning for your next meeting or reflect on a meeting you just attended….. keep these simple tips in mind.
Set Clear Objectives
Do you want to make a STEAM decision?
Do you want an innovative STEAM implementation idea?
Do you want a STEAM implementation status report?
Do you want to communicate something about STEAM Implementation?
Do you want to create a STEAM implementation plan?
Use Time Wisely
What STEAM priorities must be covered?
What STEAM results do you want to accomplish?
Who should participate?
What should be the sequence of STEAM topics?
How much time should be spent on each STEAM topic?
What is the date, time, and place?
What STEAM information needs to be provided prior to the meeting?
Model a Consistent Process
Who will take minutes and make sure they are distributed?
What STEAM items need further exploration and discussion?
What information did you gather from observing the body language of others?
How will I make sure we are on STEAM topic?
What tasks need to be listed and delegated?
What STEAM items need to be summarized at the end of the meeting?
Once, I had the opportunity to take my leadership team to the “Leading Change for School Improvement” professional development series at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. One of the most powerful tools that we were exposed to was a new 2014 resource “Meeting Wise: Making the Most of Collaborative Time for Educators“ by K.P. Boudett, & E.A. City. Each of my leadership team members where skilled experienced leaders, but one thing I found interesting is that the Meeting Wise Checklist components that are outlined below allowed for us to reflect as individual leaders, as a team, and the dialogue was powerful in identifying areas that we could improve upon together. We had some great “aha” reflections on ways to improve.
While you further reflect upon preparing for your next STEAM meeting or coaching a STEAM collaborative planning session consider these components from “The Meeting Wise Checklist” by K. P. Boudett, & E.A. City. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press), p. 20.
1. Have we identified clear and important meeting objectives that contribute to the goal of improving learning? Yes? No?
2. Have we established the connection between the work of this and other meetings in the series? Yes? No?
3. Have we incorporated feedback from previous meetings? Yes? No?
4. Have we chosen challenging activities that advance the meeting objectives and engage all participants? Yes? No?
5. Have we assigned roles, including facilitators, timekeeper, and note taker? Yes? No?
6. Have we build in time to identify and commit to next steps? Yes? No?
7. Have we built in time for assessment of what worked and what didn’t in the meeting? Yes? No?
8. Have we gathered or developed materials (draft, charts, etc.) that will help to focus and advance the meeting objectives? Yes? No?
9. Have we determined what, if any, pre-work we will ask participants to do before the meeting? Yes? No?
10. Have we put time allocations to each activity on the agenda? Yes? No?
11. Have we ensured that we will address the primary objective early in the meeting? Yes? No?
12. Is it realistic that we could get through our agenda in the time allocated? Yes? No?
As you continue to reflect upon how much time you spend in meetings and how to make them better, consider estimating the cost of each meeting you attend and its direct impact on STEAM implementation. What type of meetings are you attending? How many people are attending this type of meeting? How many hours does the meeting last? What is the average hourly rate for participants? How many meetings are attended per year? What is the cost of all the meetings per year?
You will be amazed how much money is being spent on each meeting and all the meetings collectively that you attend. Are you getting a solid return on your investment? How are the meetings that you attend improving your STEAM implementation?
Greg is a former Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and has nearly twenty years of classroom, school-based and district-level leadership experience in five different public school systems. He has a passion for teaching and learning and a commitment to supporting school-level and system-level leaders with integrated and innovative resources. Not only is Greg an accomplished leader and speaker, he’s also an avid tinkerer in his workshop where he enjoys making projects around his historic home for his lovely wife and two Labrador retrievers. You can catch Greg’s insights right here each and every Thursday and contact him directly at: [email protected]