Using Team Time Effectively
Jack C. Berckemeyer
The hardest part of taming a team is to keep everyone on task and focused during team meetings. Just as in the circus, a middle school team meeting can have several things going on at the same time. Teachers are coming and going at various times, there are endless interruptions, and at any moment the secretary might call someone about the last-period attendance sheet. If you don’t have the taming down, a team meeting can turn into a three-ring circus—without the organization of a real circus.
Making Commitments about Team Meetings
Early on in your life together as a team, have a discussion about the reasons for a group of teachers to meet together. Ask each other: "Why do we come together?" During this discussion, everyone provides a reason for the team to meet. You might get answers such as:
- Talk about kids
- Discuss curriculum
- Work on professional development goals
- Vent and be around semi-mature adults
- Work on logistics
- Talk about team norms and expectations
- Meet with parents and students
- Work on the weekly homework calendar
- Update the team website
- Review student data and progress
The list will be varied and could be long. But awareness of and agreement on your purposes for meeting will become a basis for planning your meetings. Also, ask and discuss questions such as:
- How often will we meet?
- What are the start and end times for our meetings?
- How will the agenda be established?
- How shall we begin and end each meeting?
- How can we assure that everyone feels safe to express opinions?
- What are the non-negotiables that will make meetings run smoothly?
- What should we expect from each team member in terms of participation and engagement?
- How do we hold each team member accountable?
and most important
- What do we want to be sure happens at each meeting (or every few meetings)?
Agree on answers to these questions. Agree on some expectations about the purpose and the norms for team meetings.
Setting an Agenda
Once you have agreed on what is important to do at your meetings and how each member will participate and be committed to the team process, you’re ready for regular planning.
A team meeting is not about putting on your Birkenstocks and sitting in a circle singing "Kumbaya!" We need something to keep us on task. Time is a hot issue for educators, and we are tired of our time being wasted. A team meeting should never be a waste of time. Therefore, take a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting to create an agenda. You will already have agreed on how your agenda will be established, how meetings will be run, and what important things to cover.
Be sure that your agenda focuses on kids, curriculum, professional development, some fellowship, logistics, and other business. Be careful not to let "housekeeping" details take up too much of the time. Make the agenda fit the needs of your team.
This issue of
Middle E-Connections was excerpted from the new release from Incentive Publications and AMLE Taming of the Team, by Jack C. Berckemeyer. For more of Jack’s insights on effective teaming, pick up a copy of the book at the AMLE Store.
Copyright © 2013 Association for Middle Level Education