Staff Meetings Should Be Differentiated Too!



Occasionally, I have the opportunity to go to a conference and every time I am reminded why I like them. Conferences allow you to personalize your professional development by providing lots of choice. As educators, we are taught/reminded/told of the importance of meeting the needs of all our learners (advanced, struggling, language learners, unmotivated, etc.) and one of the best ways to do this is to differentiate our lessons. We all know the “cookie-cutter,” “one size fits all” lesson design is not effective at reaching all student nor is it effective at helping students master the 4C’s. Conferences, differentiate to their “students” (the participants) and provide lots of options, each session, because they know it is the best way to make the conference as meaningful as possible for everyone. School sites, however, struggle with this idea.

Why is it that we believe in differentiation when it comes to students but when we hold staff meetings and other PD we resort to “one size fits all?” Somehow, we believe that the professional learning and growth of adults is different than it is for children? I would argue that all educators have experienced, at least once, going to a meeting where they either mastered the task in the first five minutes, left still unsure of what they were supposed to do, or felt the hour was very productive and learned a lot. Our students have the same reaction when they experience a “one size fits all” lesson because it can’t reach everyone. Our staff meetings and PD should be differentiated too!

Here are some ways that we can differentiate staff meetings/PD:

  1. Let’s start to give options for educators. Provide the resources for all the sessions but hold two or more topics during the meeting time and let participants choose which is more pertinent to them.
  2. Have teachers run staff meetings. Just like the value we see with students teaching students, why not have teachers teaching teachers.
  3. Send out a “pre-assessment” of what will be covered at the meeting. If the educator “mastered” the task, either have the next step for them at the meeting or let them use that meeting time for something else they need to work on.
  4. Ask for feedback! Let your participants help guide the development of the PD from which they are supposed to benefit. While there are lots of things to help make us better educators, a glimpse into what participants believe they need will help make the PD more purposeful.
  5. Always strive for good teaching. Staff meetings and PD are like class lessons, model effective teaching strategies during these meetings. If it not something we should see happen in a classroom it also doesn’t belong in the staff meeting.

All educators want to get better at their craft and they know that professional development is a great resource. Let’s make those mandatory meetings and trainings not feel mandatory. Taking a spin from Dave Burgess’ quote from Teach Like a Pirate: if staff meetings were optional, would you be speaking to an empty room?

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