We’ve all seen the staff meeting gifs. The memes of bored teachers struggling to keep their eyes open and willing the meeting to end.
The truth is, sometimes staff meetings are more miss than hit. However, there are some things that can be done to make them more useful, which must ultimately be the aim at 3:30pm after a hard day in the classroom.
1. Give additional time for bigger tasks
If it’s possible, use occasional staff meetings to give people a bit more time for tasks that will probably take up a lot of their time. For example, when it’s coming up to that time for staff to enter termly data into our assessment system, as assessment leader, I book in a staff meeting so people don’t have to do it all in their own time or PPA time.
Another plus to this is that I can be around to give anyone a hand who needs it or guide new staff through the process more closely. I know from feedback that people appreciate the extra time for this and so it’s a workload win too.
2. Plan ahead for extra involvement
I’m also a teaching and learning leader and last year, I planned a teaching and learning workshop as the last staff meeting of every half term.
Each workshop focused on different aspects of our curriculum: supporting developing writers, greater depth challenge in maths, greater depth writing, writing across the curriculum, and so on.
I set up the schedule at the beginning of the year and set out in the schedule what people should bring – usually a sample of books or work relating to the topic.
During the meeting, people would get a chance to share and look at work from across the school. Doing this in writing and giving everyone the chance to see what writing looked like from our Nursery to Year 6 was particularly useful.
I also built in opportunities for teachers to moderate work from different year groups. This gave them experience in this and opened up the conversation about how we were teaching writing across year groups. Even though I planned ahead and this worked for the most part, at times I changed things up.
3. Be flexible and use staff meetings to respond to needs
If you see a particular trend across school, maybe as the result of lesson observations or conversations with colleagues that needs addressing, devote a staff meeting to it. Provide more CPD, resources or whatever is needed to move forward. For the best results, do it in a timely fashion.
4. Use technology to collaborate and create useful resources
I’ve successfully employed the use of Google Docs, helping make things faster and making staff input easier.
For example, in one staff meeting, we were sharing our school development plan and wanted everyone’s input on successes and areas for development. So I set up one Google Doc that everyone could enter their ideas into. This then fed into the School Development Plan.
At another staff meeting on writing at greater depth, I shared the idea of using feedback as a way of getting greater depth writers to justify their choices in writing. We discussed how this might look different depending on the year group. So, for example, for younger children the question might be more structured: "why have you used this adjective and how might it make the reader feel?" Whereas with older children, it might be more open: "explain how you created an appropriate tone in your work".
I set up a Google Doc so teachers in each year group could enter question stems that would suit their year group. I then shared this document with all staff at the end of the meeting. Everyone went away with a resource to help them with giving feedback in writing and we had created it ourselves in that very meeting.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to staff meetings, but these four basic concepts have proved to be some of the most useful and ones that I come back to time and again, whatever the topic of the meeting.
Claire Lotriet is an assistant headteacher at Henwick Primary School in London. She is the Tes ed-tech columnist and tweets @OhLottie