Back-to-School PD “Sit-n-Get” Solutions

Last week, we shared some new approaches to invigorate your school’s in-service period. Now we’re breaking down those standard back-to-school meetings to suggest alternatives that ensure you seize the opportunities that the beginning of the year has to offer. This year, go beyond “sit-n-get” meetings to maximize participation and bring your school community together.

Get others involved For meetings you don’t want to monopolize

If you’re a facilitator for back-to-school meetings, consider delegating some of the meeting segments to your fellow staff members. If a teacher in your district attended a great PD seminar last year, see if they’d be interested in conducting a workshop for their peers. Maybe you have a teacher who’s involved in many extracurricular activities that could share what it’s like to advise a club or be a mentor, or have a guidance counselor or school nurse develop an activity.

Inviting your faculty to not only participate, but facilitate, these meetings imparts a sense of ownership and responsibility, and levels the playing field between administrators and teachers/support staff. Not to mention that delegating also lightens your load, allowing you to focus on the structure of the day’s program.

Professional help For new voices, new perspectives

If your district has a budget for professional development, consider hiring someone to facilitate a seminar at your meeting. Research your area for educational or professional development consultants or team-building facilitators. You could take an out-of-the-box approach and bring in a speaker outside of the education sphere--perhaps a local author or artist could develop a workshop around your meeting’s theme or goals. Or maybe there’s a relevant lecture being given at a local college that your group could attend. Regardless of who you choose to invite to your meeting, their new voices will ultimately bring new perspectives.

Individual prep time To demonstrate thoughtful support

Oftentimes back-to-school staff meetings include individual prep time--be it for room setup, syllabus/lesson planning, or meetings amongst individual departments. This individualized time is a useful way to give teachers a break from workshops without losing momentum. Rather than just give suggestions for how teachers can utilize this time, give them tools as well.

If you want teachers to meet as a department, assign them a space, provide chart paper and prompts, and be sure to check in with each group throughout the afternoon. If you want teachers to set up their rooms during this time, you could create a supply station with cleaning and classroom products, or maybe facilitate a swap where teachers can trade room decor. Giving teachers this time is invaluable--and you can make it even more so with a little extra attention to detail!

Time/date survey To come to a consensus

Do you hold parent-teacher conferences or staff meetings at the same time, on the same day every year? Did you inherit a “set-in-stone” schedule from your predecessor? And most importantly, have you ever asked your staff what works best for them? You may have been scheduling meetings on Wednesday evenings, when 75% of your staff would prefer a Tuesday morning. Take a staff survey to determine what time of the day and what day of the week is best for them. While you won’t be able to accommodate every single teacher, your staff will appreciate the effort, and you’ll be doing what works best for the majority of your team. Send around a simple questionnaire, or, if you prefer online communication, try needtomeet.com or whenisgood.com.

Get active To make meetings fun

Find a fun, useful way to get teachers out of their seat and on their feet. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a stretch break, or planning an elaborate team-building scavenger hunt. Get hands-on with demonstrations. If you’re introducing a new piece of technology, don’t simply demonstrate it yourself, but invite teachers to try it out as well. Consider offering more options for teachers to respond to prompts--if you found a great question you’d like to pose to the group, allow teachers to write, draw, sculpt or even perform their responses. Intersperse active tasks throughout the day to bring fresh energy to your group.

Don’t forget food Because everyone loves to eat!

Do you bring the same sugar-free cherry ice pops to your staff meetings every year? Mix it up! While most districts don’t have a budget for these types of expenditures, a few donation phone calls could yield some delicious results. Or ask staff if they’d be interested in doing a potluck type luncheon--each department could be responsible for a different dish. No matter what you can provide, big or small, the effort (and the treats) are sure to improve your meeting.

What did you do to change up your back-to-school in-service or staff meetings? Let us know in the comments below!