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Tips for Teachers newsletter #29
Three questions to ask during a departmental meeting
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💡 A quick tip to try in class this week 💡
This week’s tip is probably most relevant to heads of department - especially those who are new to the role or are moving schools - but I hope it will also be of wider interest.
As a head of department, it is important to get a sense of where your team is at. I have sat through many department meetings where the head of department has tried to do this, and it either turns into a moan-athon where teachers list all the things that they don’t like, or it is dominated by one or two personalities sharing their views whilst the rest of the team stays quiet.
Here are three questions that I think are useful to ask your team:
1. What’s one thing that we should continue doing that makes this a great department to work in?
2. What’s one thing we should start doing that would make this an even better department to work in?
3. What’s one thing we should stop doing that would make this the best department in the world to work in?
If you are a head of department, how do you think your team would answer? If you are not a head of department, what would your answers to these questions be?
I like these questions for a few reasons:
They start with a positive, causing team members to reflect on things that are going well instead of focusing only on the negative. This helps put team members in a positive frame of mind.
Question 2 can act as a catalyst for change. Teachers may have ideas they have thought of or read about that they would like to introduce, and this provides them with an opportunity to make suggestions.
The final question is an acknowledgement that time is finite, so if we are going to bring in some new initiative then we are going to need to stop doing something else. So what are the things we currently do that are not the best use of our time?
In terms of practicalities, I would advise a classic Think, Pair, Share model:
Deal with one question at a time
Give teachers time to reflect on their own in silence so they have an opportunity to process their own thoughts and are not influenced by others. Mini-whiteboards work really well here for teachers to jot down what they are thinking
Encourage teachers to share their answer with their partner and listen to their answer. Pair up teachers strategically so the conversations are likely to be as positive and productive as possible.
Collect together ideas on the board, noting down any additional comments team members make. Take a photo of the full set of suggestions.
Then repeat for questions 2 and 3.
Don’t make any promises or rejections at the time. Take the ideas away and consider their feasibility and desirability, and then feedback to the team at the next opportunity.
What would you need to change to make this tip work for you?
When could you try it for the first time?
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