As many school districts go into the new school year with at least some of their operations online, school leaders are wondering how to plan effective online faculty meetings. Faculty meetings provide teachers and staff with information, support, motivation, and inspiration. And they are essential to keep your school’s shared vision on track. But conducting them online is a new territory. How do you ensure that your time together is productive and effective? These suggestions for setting norms for online faculty meetings are a good place to start.
1. Request cameras on.
Face-to-face contact with colleagues and teammates is essential. So many of us are feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Being able to see each other reminds us that we’re part of a team with a common goal. Oh, and nobody cares if your roots are showing or your office is messy! Here are a few simple tricks that will help you look your best on video chats.
That being said, some teachers have legitimate privacy concerns and may not want to expose their coworkers or supervisor to the inner workings of their homes. Be respectful of those concerns and allow staff to use virtual backgrounds for meetings if desired.
2. Wear what makes you comfortable.
Some school districts have been getting in social media hot water by trying to regulate what students and teachers wear during online learning. Remember, this is a time to be flexible. While sweatshirts and leggings might not work for in-person school attire, are they really taking away from your online meeting? Let common sense be your guide when it comes to online dress code, and put trust in your teachers that they know what’s appropriate and what’s not.
3. Keep background distractions to a minimum.
By now, we’ve all witnessed things like dogs jumping onto laps, kids running in and out of the room, doors slamming, and doorbells ringing. During staff meetings, suggest that everyone try their best to find a quiet place, let others know they are unavailable, and close their doors.
4. Use your mute button.
Listening to one speaker at a time in a group conversation is a bit tricky with video conferencing because there is that tiny bit of lag time. It’s hard not to talk over one another, particularly when the conversation is spirited. It takes a little practice, but ask participants to keep their microphone on mute unless they are speaking and encourage everyone to take a beat before they jump in.
5. Watch the time.
There’s nothing worse than showing up on time, ready to go, and having to sit around waiting for colleagues to join a meeting. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but honoring time limits shows respect and consideration for one another.
6. Allow yourself to be present.
Connecting as a staff is more important than ever. And doing so effectively requires full attention to the business on hand. Although it’s tempting, resist the urge to multi-task. Honor this time as an opportunity to touch base and share ideas. Everyone contributes, every voice is heard.
7. Do your best to stay on track.
When it comes to faculty meetings, everyone is happier when a clear agenda is set and followed. No doubt, everyone’s experience this fall is going to be unique and there may be a need for more guidance than usual. Break into smaller groups or schedule one-on-one sessions for individuals with specific questions or problems that are not relevant to the whole group.
8. Keep it positive.
Times are hard, and we’re all stressed. It’s easy for staff meetings to devolve into complaint sessions. But it’s essential for the entire faculty to approach meetings with an open mind, listening ears, and a commitment to working together respectfully for the benefit of all.
9. Celebrate each other.
Our teachers are doing such an amazing job with all of the changes that have been thrown their way. Make your time together inspirational. Try opening your meeting with something fun, such as one of these 15 Virtual Icebreakers to Cheer Up Your Online Meetings. Set aside time together to build one another up with shout-outs, encouraging words, brilliant hacks, and success stories.
10. Don’t forget the bottom line.
As always, the ultimate purpose of faculty meetings should be focused on outcomes for kids. Agendas and conversations should ultimately be centered around doing what is best for our students, especially in this crazy, uncertain time. The more you can keep the main thing the main thing, the more productive and effective your meetings will be.
Even though we had a taste of online learning and communication in the spring, we’re all still learning. We’re dealing with loss and change and upheaval. By adopting these few simple norms, you can help ensure staff meetings will be a time to come together to cheer each other on, share ideas, and solve problems.
How are your online faculty meetings going? Come and share in our Principal Life group on Facebook.