Staff Meetings Should Not Waste Time That Teachers Really Need

3 min


Teachers are inherently nice, accommodating people. We also tend to like each other, and we CRAVE time with adults. Why, then, do we collectively feel about staff meetings the way my son feels about Brussels sprouts? It comes down to just one thing, and it has nothing to do with the way they smell when they’re in the oven. WE HAVE ZERO TIME FOR THEM!

According to an education report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (as outlined in this article from Huffington Post), American teachers spend more time with students than our peers in the world’s most developed countries, with substantially less time each day for planning. While we are expected to serve up the Thanksgiving dinner of lessons each day, these time constraints mean that we have to cook everything in the microwave, metaphorically speaking. Given the pressures of time and increasing demands -based on last spring’s testing data, the cranberry sauce has to be FRESH this year, we’re told– that staff meeting you just announced over the intercom is the very last straw.

Teachers are rational. We understand, albeit sometimes begrudgingly, that the meetings are necessary. With that in mind, here are some tips for conserving time, maximizing productivity, and improving overall morale.

1. Skip the icebreakers.

We know each other already. Or, if we don’t, we’d rather mingle organically when we have less work to do, and not under the artificial constructs of a time-sucking game:

(1.) Where did the chemistry teacher go for spring break? ANSWER: I don’t care, as long as she doesn’t need the copy machine. OMG, I HAVE SO MANY COPIES TO MAKE!

(2.) Get the P.E. teacher to sing you a song. ANSWER: Just – please, no.

2. Bagels can be multi-tasked.

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Teachers are used to doing many things at once. We can pass one girl the stapler, nudge her table-mate to do his bell work, and scan the room for absent kids, even as we land a quick anecdote about Harper Lee and spin a basketball on one finger. So, while we appreciate the bagels and cream cheese, there is no need to allocate 45 minutes to enjoying them. We can eat while you talk. And probably sneak in some grading, too… But we do appreciate the bagels. To be clear, don’t stop the bagels.

3. Celebrate classroom successes!

We like hearing that the football team won, but we also want to know what’s going well in our colleagues’ classrooms. Don’t forget: we don’t get to see much beyond our own walls. We’re busy in our own rooms making our own cranberry sauce. We want to hear about Ms. Smith, who adds nuts and oranges to hers. It might inform our recipe, but more importantly, it’s so reaffirming to know that someone has noticed all the hard work.

4. Tread carefully with the analysis of test data.

Talking about the results of standardized testing is like walking blindfolded through a cow pasture. You’re bound to step in it. Teachers understand accountability, and we get the idea behind standardized testing. But we also mostly agree that the testing is excessive and that too much time is spent staring at data that sometimes reflects nothing more than the artistic whims of the weary test-takers who carelessly filled in bubbles as if they were decorating a Christmas tree.

5. Communicate!

This meeting would be an opportune time to give us a heads-up regarding that upcoming intruder drill (those always stress us out), or next week’s revised testing schedule.

6. Don’t pile on.

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Did I mention we’re breathing through straws already? If we’re going to be asked to take on one more thing, please look for something to take away. Show us that you respect our time and that our suffocation is not your end game.

7. Give us candy.

Not just Smarties and other learning-themed candy that lives in the bottom of trick-or-treat bags until next Halloween rolls around. Give us that good stuff. Reese’s Cups on the table will go a long way to improving morale. The Easter egg ones have been shown to produce optimal results.

8. Teachers: Be grown-ups!

You can’t complain about not being treated like a professional if you behave like some of your most distracted, disengaged students during staff meetings. The side conversations, the cell phones, the glazed over eyes…. Look alive! We are all on the same team here! Let’s focus and knock this out so we can make it to Number Nine.

9. Get us back to our classrooms!

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Some of our bulletin boards haven’t changed in eight years.

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SallyWhite

Senior Member

I'm a public high school teacher specializing in English and Theatre Arts. On any given day, I summon the energy five times in a row to fire kids up about Shakespeare or semi-colons or the virtues of getting to class on time; then I move all of the desks out of the way and rehearse the school play in a building with no actual theatre. I love my kids, and I love teachers, and celebrating them is one of my favorite things in life. At night, I write.

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