At the end of last year, I stepped down from my role as the Literacy and Numeracy Coach at the school. One of my colleagues has taken the role of Literacy and Numeracy Co-ordinator, which has some aspects of my coaching role and many new tasks attached to it. Some of my other responsibilities have been distributed among the very capable members of the Literacy and Numeracy Team and some regional specialist coaches.
One of the responsibilities that has fallen to the LN Co-ordinator is leading the LN team at our school; this includes chairing the monthly team meetings. My colleague and good friend, who has become the new co-ordinator, asked me for some tips about leading the team meetings. I decided to publish the tips as a post. It could easily be a three part series, but instead it will be one. I have some other points I would like to make about leading teams and making meetings bearable, so more posts will come soon.
How to Lead a Meeting: Teachers can be Leaders!
Like teaching, leading a meeting effectively has several components that are all important to a successful session with the team. The teacher plans the lesson including activities for students to experience. Equipment, stationery, resources and reference materials are gathered, prepared and organised prior to the lesson. The teacher selects the information that students will need and the best way to present it in order to engage the students. Important concepts presented in the information are summarised by the teacher and he/she formulates questions to focus learning appropriately. The teacher knows what needs to happen and has goals for the lesson. The plan is set out for everyone to see and at the end of the lesson the students leave with new knowledge and skills as well as independent practice tasks to complete before the next lesson. When goals are achieved, this success is celebrated by the teacher and the students before formulating new goals, and moving forward. When obstacles to learning occur – such as confusion, communication break downs, lack of resources, time limitations or even motivation – the teacher evaluates how these obstacles can be overcome and plans accordingly. Sometimes it might be appropriate for the teacher to guide students as they reflect upon the difficulties and disappointment they have faced so they can make positive changes for the future. If you are teacher, you know how to do all of these things and you can apply these same skills to become a leader of productive and even enjoyable team meetings.
BEFORE the Meeting
Before the meeting, the team leader will:
- Construct the Agenda.
- Remind everyone on the team to attend.
- Consult with Executives (Deputy Principal, Heads of Department etc.) to ensure the Agenda includes all necessary items.
- If team members or visitors will be presenting or facilitating part of the meeting, ensure they are aware of the requirements for this and are prepared.
- Organise for someone to take the minutes of the meeting and arrange for them to have a copy of the agenda (electronically) and the minutes template for the meeting – it will make their job easier.
- Review the Agenda and ensure they know about every item on it (who is speaking about it? what is it about? why is it being discussed? what is the desired outcome of each item on the agenda? i.e. disseminating information or making a decision about a new direction).
- Check that a location is booked and all attendees know where and when the meeting will be.
- Organise any catering arrangements if necessary (members might want to take turns bringing something to share).
- Photocopy and (if possible) distribute the agenda and other relevant documents to attendees.
AT the Meeting
During the Lesson the teacher manages resources and appoints students to assist with this. The teacher leads discussions and is responsible for maintaining a positive environment and ensuring learning goals are met.
At the meeting the Team Leader will:
Be on time (early if possible).
Distribute agendas and minutes from the previous meeting as well as ensure the meeting room is set up appropriately (chairs, sitting around a table, not too hot or cold).
Welcome everyone to the meeting and quickly review the list of apologies. If there are new members – welcome them specifically. If there is someone at the meeting who isn’t usually there (i.e. principal, staff member reporting on an issue or providing PD or a guest) welcome them individually and if necessary introduce them to the team.
Start at the first agenda item– hand over to the responsible person (if there is one) – ensure everyone understands why the item is being discussed and ask focus questions if specific responses from team members are required. Then summarise the key point of the agenda item before moving on to the next.
Lead and monitor discussions ensuring everyone has an opportunity to speak. Some people will naturally dominate a conversation or make sweeping statements that appear to end the discussion. Notice who has spoken and invite responses from the people who haven’t yet contributed. If the topic could be controversial or overwhelming, bring out the timer and don’t let anyone speak for more than 1 minute at a time or limit them to only one point. Ask members to brainstorm/ discuss the topic with a partner before allowing the partners to share with the group.
If disseminating information: try to make it fun or provide visuals. Ask a colleague to share the message.
Write down questions and personal thoughts as people are talking.As a team leader, sometimes questions for a speaker or executive at the meeting should be discussed in a private setting rather than in the team meeting (an executive should not be presenting information to the team that the chair does not already have). Questions about how a new initiative will impact on personal time or projects, but are not relevant to the team, should wait until later.
Try to keep everyone on topic. Use active listening to summarise what the general feeling in the room is before moving forward. If people are getting off topic, bring them back with a specific focus question or remind them of the decision that needs to be taken.
Stay Positive: Try not to let people get bogged down in the problems that have arisen or issues that are being discussed. Sometimes we all need a whinge but we need to move beyond that and start looking at solutions. We also need to remind ourselves of the victories – no matter how small.
Relax! Everyone on the team is supportive and wants to see the team agenda make positive progress.
AFTER the Meeting
At the end of a lesson, the teacher: tidies up the classroom, follows up with students, prepares resources for future use, evaluates the lesson and begins planning the next lesson.
After the meeting the Team Leader will:
- Pack up the meeting room and ensure furniture is replaced to where it was found.
- Be available for personal or small group conversation with any of the members who might want to share ideas or review other classroom concerns.
- Obtain a draft copy of the minutes – proof read and ensure that necessary information is included. Also check that decisions/ discussion points have been recorded appropriately.
- Once the minutes have been checked, save them on the school network and/or email a copy to all team members. Inform all staff where the minutes have been saved.
- Check on the tasks that need to be completed as a result of the meeting and highlight tasks that team members have to do (make sure all of these are done by the next meeting).
Excellent Teachers make Excellent Team Leaders! If you have been asked to lead a team, it is most likely that others have seen your leadership potential. Embrace the opportunity, get yourself a mentor and trust them to help you through.
More to Come!