Delivering a staff meeting is never easy. Despite the fact we spend most of our days essentially "presenting" to a diverse and often unwilling audience, the prospect of speaking in front of other adults is, for many teachers, a surprisingly daunting task.
Even putting stage fright aside, the odds can still feel stacked against you. You’re dealing with an audience of tired teachers who have undoubtedly had a lot to deal with during the day and whose minds are now drifting to the stacks of marking waiting on their desks. It’s unlikely that they will be receptive to anything that will result in an increase in workload and – unless your subject is maths or English – it’s unlikely to become a priority.
However, a roomful of adults is not really that different to a class full of students – something that seems obvious, but is all too easy to forget. So, by applying the same logic you would apply to planning a lesson, you can help your staff meeting to run smoothly.
Prep the room
You know the drill. You teach lessons every day. Before you start the meeting, take time to prepare the room. Make sure you have enough hand-outs, check that all the pens work, do a dry-run of any slides or videos you’re showing and – most importantly – put out some biscuits. It’s a small thing, but we’ve all seen the reaction when a box of something sweet appears in the staffroom. Having something out to graze on probably won’t make a huge difference to the receptiveness of your audience, but every little helps.
Reconsider the handouts
Think carefully about your handouts. Do they add or provide anything on top of what you’re saying, or are they just going to provide a distraction? A full print-out of your PowerPoint slides is rarely necessary. Instead, you could email out key links and documents after the fact.
Use a starter
Just like students, your colleagues will respond to a fun ice-breaker that will shift their attention away from the stresses of the day and redirect it towards what you are going to tell them. It’s important to know your staff and what will work well with them. For some cohorts, a competitive game will get everyone laughing and lighten the mood. For some, getting moving with an active task will work better.
Make the point clear
Whether you’re pitching new teaching methods, rolling out a new assessment technique or giving an update on the curriculum, it’s important to make it clear to your colleagues why they should buy into it. Chances are, whatever you’re selling, there’s going to be some impact on workload and you’re really going to need to justify why they should spend their precious time on implementing something new.
Ideally, this shouldn’t rely on some statistic or quote from Ofsted. Getting them to see the value of your topic could mean giving them a go at something practical or sharing anecdotal evidence from your own classroom. You’ll know from experience that we’re far more likely to take something on if we feel it has worked for us, or someone we know personally, rather than a faceless organisation or a nameless teacher you met on a course.
When at all possible, plan to finish early. Even if it’s only three minutes. Time is precious when you’ve got clean-up from a messy practical lesson and paperwork standing between you and home time. It’s another seemingly small tweak to your session, but it’ll make a big difference in terms of people’s moods and their receptiveness to your ideas.
Kathryn Horan is a college fellow for Primary Science Teacher Trust and a national expert Stem teacher at Greenhill Primary School in Leeds.
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