A Survival Guide for the First Staff Meeting of 2024

If there is a therapy dog, sit by the therapy dog.

Photo of teachers in first staff meeting of 2024

I start second semester tomorrow with a Professional Development Day. My house is clean, my grades are entered, and I’ve meal-prepped like a crazy person. In other words, I’m as prepared and optimistic as one can possibly be.

But this isn’t my first rodeo. It’s my 18th rodeo.

Eighteen January teacher workdays have taught me that, by lunchtime, all energy and positivity will evaporate.

Maybe this is your first year attending the dreaded early January faculty meeting. If so, ignore that email they sent you with the meeting agenda.

Here’s how your morning will go.

8:00 – Gather in cafeteria. Maybe they’ll feed you breakfast. (Pro tip: Steal an extra biscuit for lunch.)

8:30 – Whoever is running the meeting will call for attention, forcing you to abandon that conversation with your co-teacher about your new idea for math manipulatives.


8:45 – Following various housekeeping items, the meeting ringmaster will announce (drumroll, please) A Deep Dive Into Data!

The next 90 minutes will vary by school. Will they show everyone’s MAP scores on a Smartboard? Print them out for you to analyze with your table using a variety of metrics? Ooh, maybe they’ll have various score breakdowns on butcher paper around the room and you can write your observations in marker! Because butcher paper is fun!

Regardless of the format, by 10 a.m. you’ll be totally demoralized and surrounded by a graveyard of wrappers from candy you don’t remember eating.

You’ll notice that only half your kids met their MAP goals, and even though you know that this is exactly what the test predicts will happen, you’ll feel like a massive failure. How did so many of them apparently get worse at reading in your class?

10:00 – Admin or instructional coaches will suggest tons of interventions and practices to get your kids “back on track.” You will resolve to adopt all of these plans.

10:30 – Break. While peeing, you will realize that if you follow your new testing-based resolutions, your next four months will be a joyless slog of assessment and subsequent analysis.

11:00 – When breakout focus groups begin, you will dissociate completely. Play Wordle. Play hangman with the person next to you. Mentally plan your spring break.

I’ve never been able to avoid the January 3 Attack on Morale, but there are ways to combat it.

5 Tips for Surviving the First Staff Meeting of 2024

1. Have a good playlist handy.

I’d recommend a variety of genres and vibes, since your needs will vary widely. “It Is Well With My Soul” followed by Ben Folds’ “Song for the Dumped.” You get the picture.

2. Remember that norm-referenced tests like MAP do not correlate to criterion-referenced ones like the end-of-course tests.

If all that data gives you information you can use, great! It might be helpful to know that Jorge is wonderful at vocabulary but struggling with literary text. For the rest of it, just jump through the hoops and keep doing your thing.

3. DO NOT rewrite your curriculum based on this meeting.

Write that on a sticky note and put it on the steering wheel of your car. Change your computer password to donotrewrite. Put a reminder on your whiteboard. You have brilliant, creative ideas tailored to your students—don’t replace them with generic test prep!

4. Bring your own snacks.

Think protein. Fiber. That way you don’t have to resort to 10+ Mr. Goodbars before the first bathroom break. 

5. Sit by your teacher bestie.

If you can exchange eye-rolls, it’s much easier to keep things in perspective. Or if there is a therapy dog, sit by the therapy dog.

The first meeting of the new semester is rough, but it’s better if you’re mentally prepared. Remember that your kids are coming back soon, and they’ll be excited to see you (even if you teach middle school and they’d rather die than admit this).

You are ready for this. You’ve got it. Happy New Year.

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The first staff meeting in January can be a total morale suck. Here's what to expect, plus tips on thriving!