Posted by: principalsintraining | February 20, 2015

#MeetingFitnessPlan: Adults Standing Up In Front of Adults



Standing up in front of adults can feel like THIS.

I will dedicate a series of posts on an educational practice as ubiquitous (and unquestioned) as homework: the Faculty Meeting. What is their purpose? How do we assess their effectiveness? Why do so many teachers (and, secretly, many administrators) hate them?

Why the needless suffering when we can choose to make them something better?

Scenario: You’ve landed from outer space smack dab in the middle of a faculty meeting on Earth. You don’t speak the language. You don’t understand what this particular group of organisms does or why. So what inferences do you draw from your observations? My guess is you would pay attention to who is talking and to how people are physically situated. Hey, there’s someone standing up and saying a lot of things; meanwhile, there’s a lot of other people sitting and not saying much at all – unless it’s a conversation with someone sitting near them. So that person talking must be important; yeah, I mean, for them to be standing and speaking while all these other folks sit quietly must mean that person has some special significance. Maybe this is some kind of special ceremony, something pregnant with meaning.

Well, we all know who (most typically) that standing/talking person is: your friendly neighborhood site administrator. After all, we all know the administrator has inherited the Faculty Meeting scepter – it’s been passed down through the generations just like in royalty. It is their sacred duty to (hopefully) plan them and carry them out. This is just how things are done. Our friend the Alien busily scribbles notes and starts making some conjectures/inferences. It’s fun to explore strange, new realms!

So it’s interesting to feel myself – one of those talking (sometimes standing) special people (in the eyes of the alien) – confront this archetype and attempt to (slowly) unwind it. The administrative team (myself and the principal) plans and facilitates every staff meeting – some traditions just don’t blink at the fact that it’s 2015! One way we’re trying to shift this is by asking teachers to stand up and talk – about a teaching practice, about a learning experience they had, about student work…Nothing formal, nothing requiring an accompanying digital presentation or resources packet.

Interestingly, getting teachers to do this isn’t all that easy. Asking can turn into begging. After a certain number of all-call invitations with no takers, we eventually have to ask someone personally – something that might also be seen as the dreaded “shoulder tap,” the administrator playing favorites. Yeah that’s a nice, precipitous, jagged-edged paradox to tiptoe along…

At a recent staff meeting two teachers shared strategies to support English language learners. One of them offered these thoughts via email on the experience (I asked for her permission to share):

“…thank you for acknowledging the discomfort around sharing in front of all disciplines of colleagues. I hated it! Not that I wouldn’t do it again, but it definitely rates as one of the least favorite activities of my work day. I am not a teacher of teachers. If a colleague is interested, I’m happy to share. The notion of having us take turns sharing at staff meetings is probably a good one. I’m just letting you know that some of us are less comfortable in the teaching of teachers than others are. Your openness and pursuit of the future is good for us, just uncomfortable.”

Her message was a powerful reminder to not take things for granted. Teachers talk in front of big groups of people every day for a living – but those people are kids. My job as a site administrator has me talking to adults all the time, from staff meetings to the crowds of parents that show up for evening events. Talking to groups of adults is different, and it took me a while to feel like I was on solid ground in front of them. I can remember what it felt like to step in front of staff as a newly arrived assistant principal:


Okay maybe a slight exaggeration.

Consider what it takes for one of the most acclaimed singers in Australia to get up on stage:

Faculty meetings are in serious need of a major lifestyle change to ensure the arteries stay unclogged, otherwise they’ll become another DOA statistic. Should we do like some schools and discontinue them for good, or hire a personal trainer to burn off that dangerous belly fat?



  1. I loved this post so much I’m going to write a blog post as response.
    PS: If teachers HATE speaking in front of their peers, sharing ideas, asking Qs… then just imagine how students feel talking in front of THEIR peers.

    • Fitness plan means getting our reps in. I remember heart pounding before speaking from the audience at mAny meetings. Partly it’s a question of who’s in “control” of the mtg & the tone they set – also it doesn’t always have to be all group, pairs/tris/quads…Okay many ideas for this little series, including the role of bacon donuts in community building & innovation. YOU know I’m serious when I say that…

  2. Love this Eric! We’ve been taking baby steps around peer PD and it’s going well. Small groups, specific concepts or skills… making it very can-do. We underestimate what we have to share with one another. The difference it can make for students and our own practice. Maybe it’s a format issue also. Small groups vs. whole staff. Lots to think about. And act on.

    • Ok well get all these great thoughts in a post & we can use it to hopefully push back against the tide of Meeting Doom!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



Mercedes Schneider's EduBlog

Diane Ravitch's blog

A site to discuss better education for all

Laurie Hailer

exploring best practices in Algebra 2

Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday difficult can that be?

Mr. Anderson Reads & Writes

A blog about teaching, education, and professional life


Amy's Whimsical Musings

Special Needs Teaching and Education

Inclusive teaching, education and resources.

Mostly True Stories of K. Renae P.

My Adventures in Teaching and Learning

Scenes From The Battleground

Teaching in British schools

Belmont Teach

...our directory of excellence

Infinitely Curious

Perspectives on learning from across the Hall Middle community

Project-Based Life

Rethinking the way we look at the school/life intersection.


education-leadership-bikes-cartoons and other randomness

Dr. Neil Gupta

Educational Leader | Design Thinker | Instructional Coach

The Underdog's Advocate

A school leadership guide to success in the modern classroom

Learning & Leading

Life and Leadership w/ Two Married Administrators

Journeys in Ed

By @TravisPhelps80

The Connected Educators Hotspot

Educational Leadership in the 21st


skins of ill shaped fishes

technolandy: site of Ian Landy blog to support technologization

Models By Design

Models speak louder than words


Broadcasting and Farming Ideas

About Teaching

An Assistant Principal in an Australian Primary School

Where sharing mistakes is okay. in fact it's encouraged.

Educational Musings of a (former) Music Educator

My reflections on teaching & learning on my path through the education system.

the édu flâneuse

"For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate observer, it's an immense pleasure to take up residence in multiplicity, in whatever is seething, moving, evanescent and infinite: you're not at home, but you feel at home everywhere, you're at the centre of everything yet you remain hidden from everybody." Baudelaire

Principal Powers' Principles

A place for my thoughts and ideas

Adjusting Course

Responding to the Needs of the 21st Century Student

Not Yet

I never could get the hang of Thursdays

Happy Impermanence

Life change is inevitable. It's how you show up that matters.

Welcome to the Music Club

Music Takes You on Journeys

Ross Cooper's Blog

Just another site

Ideas Out There


Fisticuffs and Shenanigans

It was all fun and games, until the fisticuffs and shenanigans... -Deutschmarc

Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension


True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?


A painter's diary of life in the rugged North West of Ireland

There is no box

thinking out loud about technology, teaching and life

Karen Blumberg

Technology is special.

Embark For Progress

One woman's perspective on living, teaching, and developing a profession.

Heutagogy Community of Practice

Advancing the Theory and Practice of Self-Determined Learning

Granted, and...

thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins

%d bloggers like this: