Opening meetings. The mere thought is enough to send even the most dedicated faculty member into convulsions. In passing, a few colleagues joked with me that these meetings are hardly their favorite time of year and I understand and appreciate their perspective. Faculty members come to schools to work with students, not sit in meetings. And with that in mind, I work hard to make the opening sequence make sense, run smoothly, and contribute to the overall educational program of the school.
In my opening remarks this year, I addressed the issue of why we have opening meetings. From my perspective, there are three reasons that schools should convene to start the year:
1.) Promote a sense of community. One of the qualities I appreciate about my school is the strong sense of community present in the faculty. This characteristic must be tended and not taken for granted. Part of that work comes in bringing the community together for a shared, unifying starting point to the year. Not only do we meet, but there are a number of social occasions to enjoy, from daily lunch to dinner at the Head’s house. Relationships are built and strengthened in these moments, all leading to a more cohesive faculty body.
2.) Improve the educational program of the school. In our opening meetings, we try to spend the majority of the time focused on professional development for faculty members. From colleagues presenting on their summer professional development work to a challenging session on “difficult conversations” relating to the shooting of Michael Brown to a consultant working with to help us unpack the cognitive process of “attention”, our faculty spent the better part of two days LEARNING together. I can’t imagine a more powerful tone setter for the year to come.
3.) Managing the business aspect of school. Schools can get into trouble with opening meetings if this aspect of the agenda dominates. Yes, we conducted our fair share of “business” by walking through orientation, providing updates on committee work, and faculty discussions to move that work forward. In a school that prides itself on the strength of the faculty community, it is important to get everyone on the same page and share information widely. Again, when these agenda items dominate, eyes tend to glass over.
Overall, I am pleased with how opening meetings ran. It was a great time of learning and community building, setting a great tone for the 14-15 year!