Structuring Staff Meetings That Save Time, Get To the Point, and Actually Produce Results!
Are you tired of having staff meetings that could have been “Done over an email?”
When I meet with Teachers, Educational Assistants, and Paraprofessionals one of the biggest frustrations they have is being required to attend meetings that take up their prep time and despite best intentions of administrators, principals, or district leaders miss the mark or at the worst, make more problems when their intended desire was to create solutions.
I have spent 16 years in the education field, and a portion of that time was spent being a lead special education teacher. My job was to help lead the group of special education teachers and paraprofessionals within my building to assist students who needed it most. In the infancy of my leadership, I thought it best not to have any meetings and that I would be able to lead my team through personal connections and interactions. This failed me miserably. Although I had great relationships with my team members, they did not have great relationships with each other and this caused many problems.
I came up with a weekly meeting template that would allow my team to become a much more effective group. The following is in the excerpt from pages 32 and 33 in my book “The Expectations Behavior Management System: A Multitiered System of Supports for Special Education Students Who struggling with behaviors.”
One of the most important parts of the system that has made an impact on our students is the increase in productive communication between case managers and paraprofessionals. Communication happens in two different formats. The first is a weekly special education staff meeting and the second is a biweekly student reflection meeting.
Weekly SPED Staff Meeting:
The purpose of this meeting is to reflect on the current special education program. All special education paraprofessionals can fill out the timesheet for this meeting to mark their extra hours. The meeting lasts 30 minutes before their duty day starts. These meetings are held once a week in our conference room, collaborating around the table. Attendance is required for the lead special education teacher, resource special education paraprofessionals, and available resource special education teachers who do not have an IEP meeting scheduled or are collaborating with a regular education teacher.
To make sure that the meeting time is used wisely, the lead special education teacher will provide a structure, breaking the conversation into three parts. The three categories are also shown on the diagram in Table 1.
1. Celebrations: This section can be filled with a variety of items:
- Student success stories
- Specific breakthroughs with students
- Reviewing team successes (examples include: Individual student goals being met, academic performance on assessments, and changes to team created protocols)
2. What is not working or what needs fixing: During this time, the floor is open to everyone:
- Sometimes, paraprofessionals will start with student-specific problems: “I am having trouble with . . . when . . . .”
- Sometimes, paraprofessionals will bring up school-wide problems: Can we have a common place to access supplies?
*Note: If no one volunteers to begin the conversation, the lead teacher can initiate the conversation:
- Is everybody OK with bussing?
- Any area of the day that your students are having the toughest time getting through?
- Any questions about sensory or behavior breaks?
- How are you feeling about your student’s progress toward his or her weekly goals?
- Is everybody OK with bussing?
3. How we are going to solve this problem, so we can move forward: The purpose of this section is to problem-solve as a team. This can be done in several ways:
- Once a problem is stated, staff can suggest solutions or strategies that have been successful.
- These strategies are written on the board.
- If an answer or solution can’t be formulated, the lead teacher will make a notation on the board of a possible source for further help.
- This structure will be used during the first meeting that the special education team has. After the first meeting, the team will need to use Table 2.
- During all the following meetings, a fourth category is to be created. It will be placed as the first category the special education team will address. The category is labeled; Review from Last Meeting. The purpose of this category is to essentially create a check-off list from the previous week’s “How are we going to solve the problem, so we can move forward” category. The team will then review if the solutions that were created the week before had implemented, or if there was any type of progress the team could already identify.When my team began using this system, we became a better team. The talk about not having a plan went away because everyone on the team knew what we were trying to do with a student. This fundamentally changed how my team worked with each other and our students. When everybody knew the plan, we were able to support and encourage one another to be more successful, and as a result, we became a team that could handle any situation or problem with a student because we were doing it together.
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