Have at least one meeting with no notes per week…just a conversation of ideas.
Education has entered the world of big data and data driven education. Overall this is a very good thing for getting quantitative information about the performance of students (and in some cases teachers) in a wide variety of situation. The idea though has issues and one of them is the idea that administrations in schools feel the need to have some sort of detailed reporting about EVERYTHING that happens within the walls.
I can understand the rationale. I really do. I get that administration is under increasing pressure from School Boards to demonstrate achievement on state mandated tests and to show improvement in score from all the money that is being spent.
The problem though is that principals often micromanage the situation by dictating that all conversations and collaborations be recorded either through a note-taker and submitted, or by using an online collaboration tool like Google Docs and share it with them. While I can appreciate that principals want to have their fingers on the pulse of conversation in school, the result of mandating reporting on collaboration creates a ‘Yes-Man’ kind of collaboration where there is very little real innovation or educational risk taking (which is where all the cool, good stuff, happens). Sometimes it is because educators feel insecure (rightly or wrongly) about their job or what kind of information might be shared with parents and school boards. Other times it is simply out of built up mistrust of administration in general that might go back decades.
I’m all for reporting good ideas and sharing of information to create solution to help students thrive. What I am against is doing something just for the sake of doing it, or, out of mistrust that the people charged with a task can’t be trusted to accomplish things without having a threat hanging over their heads. Personally, that is no way to instill confidence and trust in the people who work underneath you. Why not try a simple solution that will garner big results.
Institute a policy of having at least one collaboration meeting a week with no agenda and, more importantly, no reporting. No note taker, no Google Docs, no voice memos. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Big ol’ goose egg.
Some of our best ideas come to us with there is no boundaries on how the time/space is going to be used. When we trust our teachers to collaborate, let them. Don’t institute parameters on how that collaboration should look and what, specifically, needs to be the end result. Collaboration is an organic process that needs to have time to germinate and grow. It needs to be fostered with appreciation and trust to really innovate and reach new solutions to old status quo problems.
By having at least one meeting a week with no notes you can create an atmosphere unencumbered with attached strings or nagging fear of listening ears to your harebrained, esoteric idea that just might work.