One of the very best ways to draw the ire of your staff is to schedule pointless meetings. Of course meetings can be productive and are often necessary to have with a school staff. However, too often teachers are asked to wake up extra early or stay extra late for a meeting that could very easily have been conducted in an email. Every teacher knows it’s a waste of time, and that is not good for teacher morale or staff culture. Here is a checklist of five things to ask yourself before scheduling a staff meeting to make sure the meeting’s agenda shouldn’t just go out in an email.
1. Do I just need to give out information?
If you just need to give your staff a specific piece of information, then send that information via email. For instance, if your goal is to refresh your staff on the protocols for parent-teacher conferences, just send them the protocols and tell them to get in touch if they have any questions. No one (yourself included, probably) wants to sit and listen to someone reading information to them that they can easily read themselves. If you are worried about specific people not reading your message, check in with them individually. Make it clear to your staff that you want to save them time by sending the info in an email. This will encourage most people to open it and read it.
2. Am I only collecting information and feedback?
Maybe you need volunteers for an upcoming event. Perhaps you are gathering data for an upcoming meeting where teachers will make sense of it. Maybe you’re curious about how a new protocol or program is working, and you are looking for feedback. If the reason you are calling a meeting is to collect information, then it can probably just be an email. Save the meeting for when you process the information and actually do something with it.
Google Forms is a great tool to survey your staff and gather quality information from them. When sending out surveys, or any requests for information and feedback, attach a deadline to your requests. Send a reminder email to teachers asking for their responses. Chances are when teachers can reply from their computer rather than in person and on the spot, their responses will be more thoughtful and useful anyway.
3. Will everyone be able to attend the meeting?
Here’s a scenario: Dances have gone haywire the last couple years, and homecoming is right around the corner. You want to pull everyone together to discuss best practices for chaperoning dances. But then you find out two of the teachers on the homecoming committee will be unable to attend the meeting. What do you do?
Send an email, of course!
Okay, that might be a little too simple, and a meeting might be necessary for this situation. But teachers know who needs to be at certain meetings, and if they are not there, they can feel like their time has been wasted. If there’s time, reschedule the meeting. If not, email everyone the general protocols and invite key members to a private meeting. We should always ask, “What is the purpose of the meeting?” If that purpose cannot be achieved, the meeting should not happen.
4. Does my staff have time for a meeting right now?
Whether it’s homecoming week, the week of parent-teacher conferences, the end of the semester, or another particularly busy week of the year, it’s almost always best not to schedule meetings during that time. If your staff is slammed and doesn’t have time for a meeting, anything you schedule will probably not be very productive anyway. Plus, your teachers will need that time. If an issue is pressing, schedule a meeting the week before or after the busy one. The other option is, of course, sending an email.
5. Has anything changed since the last meeting?
This is a tough one because it’s nice to keep your finger on the pulse of new initiatives. Scheduling a meeting to talk about how things are going since the last meeting can be tempting, as they can give feelings of satisfaction that things are moving along smoothly. However, there needs to be time to allow things to start moving. Calling your staff together to hear an update before there is one to be shared is a waste of time. Instead, you can send an email reminding everyone about what was discussed in the previous meeting. Tell them to keep making notes of progress and get in touch if they need to. Once enough time passes, schedule a meeting where staff can actually analyze new information and data—not just share it.
Everyone’s time is valuable, yours included. So much of it can be saved and put to better use when meetings become emails. Again, staff meetings can play a huge role in staff culture and the effectiveness of your school. But this only happens when meetings are efficient, action based, and serve a purpose for everyone. Otherwise, type up the information in an email and press send.
Join the great conversations going on about school leadership in our Facebook groups at Principal Life and High School Principal Life.
Plus, check out this article about life hacks for principals.