What if collaborative meetings always led to action?

What if collaborative meetings always led to action?

Starting with the end in mind, our team leaders considered what they would like participants to FEEL, THINK, BE, HAVE, SAY and DO after their collaborative meetings…

The consensus was for people to come out feeling motivated, empowered and challenged, with a sense of purpose and shared vision, eager to move forward with the implementation of new ideas. (Meeting Wise!)


How might we create a culture of productive collaboration?

Team leaders reflected on the culture of their teams by using match sticks to represent their team dynamics, which proved to be both an interesting exercise in visualisation and a powerful reality check. (Thanks, @kjinquiry!)

The next step was to consider the conditions that might contribute towards a productive collaborative culture. Which of these are most important for all team members? How would you prioritise these and what would you add?

  • having a positive image of the child
  • being comfortable with cognitive dissonance
  • having autonomy/ a sense of agency
  • feeling safe
  • assuming positive intentions of other team members
  • having a clear purpose
  • contributing actively and equitably
  • being willing to grow, see things in new ways and open to change
  • having knowledge and understanding of pedagogy

And then…

How do we develop  a culture of productive collaboration within our teams?

Some of the ideas that were shared:

  • Create an essential agreement and agree on meeting norms
  • Acknowledge mistakes and share insecurities
  • Celebrate successes
  • Constantly reflect – individually and as a group
  • Listen to and acknowledge all perspectives
  • Ensure agenda is available in advance and input is open to everyone
  • Celebrate the zone of discomfort and ask people to try things
  • Be non judgemental
  • Develop trust and respect so tensions are easily talked through
  • Listen to each other
  • Always focus on the child
  • Ensure everyone has a voice
  • Compromise, affirm, reassure and encourage
  • Allow time. Be creative in finding time!
  • Keep asking questions  – Why? What if? How might we?
  • Be flexible
  • Try to understand where everyone is coming from
  • Take turns to plan and facilitate meetings
  • Bring others/ experts into the planning and reflection process
  • Be available as much as possible
  • Know when to lead and when to follow

And also…

How do we ensure our meetings are valuable?

Team leaders jotted down things they currently do in meetings and then evaluated those against a list of criteria that make meetings really valuable…

Collaborative planning and reflection meetings should: (adapted from IB PYP standards and practices)

  • take place regularly and systematically.
  • address all the essential elements of the PYP 
  • be based on agreed expectations for student learning.
  • consider the different learning needs of students.
  • address horizontal and vertical articulation.
  • include analysing and responding to student learning eg looking for misconceptions and patterns
  • involve teachers modelling the attributes of the learner profile.
  • ensure that our practice aligns with our learning principles.
  • take an inquiry stance, eg through framing inquiry questions.
  • consider the development of conceptual understandings.
  • include planning provocations, addressing our agreed purpose and criteria

These are some of the wonderings that came up as a result:

  • Who needs to be at meetings and how often should they take place?
  • Are there other ways to deal with administrative matters, outside of meeting time? 
  • If we spent time setting the tone for our collaborative meetings, would they be more productive?
  • How can we support teams which are not functioning productively?
  • How can we work around timetable constraints?
  • How can we share what we value about culture and content with our teams?
  • How might we address challenges in a solution focussed manner?
  • How can we get people to step up to facilitate a meeting?
  • What kinds of student data should we bring to meetings?

And coming full circle to where we started…

What action will this collaborative meeting lead to?

What will our team leaders (and you, the reader)  FEEL, THINK, BE, HAVE, SAY and DO as a result?

Effective School Teams

There are hoops on the floor and cards with each staff member’s name on them. The task is to silently place the cards into the hoops indicating existing teams in the school.

In the first round we are not permitted to move cards placed by others. It’s an interesting, yet frustrating process! How can I place some of the cards assigned to me if others have already created teams with which I don’t agree?

Once everyone has had a turn to explain their placements, we move on to the second round, silently again, now with the freedom to move and replace names in different configurations.

By the third round, there are overlapping hoops, string has been added to demonstrate connections across hoops and some names have been written on more than one card…


The process reveals that:

  • Hoops are restrictive in exploring teams because they are closed circles and teams overlap.
  • We have many teams within our three campus school, some cross campus, some within. No-one works in isolation.
  • Everyone belongs to more than one team, some to many.
  • There are different perspectives on which teams people belong to.
  • Where you see yourself might be different from where others see you.
  • Some teams exist because of circumstance, some teams are imposed, some teams are chosen.
  • There are possibilities for new teams, which have not yet been considered.

The process is part of a discussion by our leadership team and the next steps will include all teachers examining the existing teams, defining their purpose, identifying the teams they belong to and would like to join…

Are all our teams effective?

  • Does every meeting of every team relate to learning?
  • Does every team have a shared sense of purpose?
  • Does every team have an essential agreement or shared norms?
  • Who steers the ship? Does every team have a leader or rotate leadership?
  • Does belonging to several teams give members broader knowledge and understanding?
  • Does belonging to too many teams mean you attend too many meetings and are spread to thinly?
  • What about informal teams? Unofficial groups who choose to collaborate?
  • Are all teams built on trust?
  • Do participants in every team learn from each other?
  • Does every team include healthy conflict and welcome different voices?
  • Are meetings well planned with clear learning related objectives?

and another question…

  • What teams do you belong to beyond the walls of the school?


  • One of the best teams to which I belong is an unofficial alliance, where ideas and thoughts are safely shared, analysed, criticised and developed.
  • Some of my most valuable learning comes from beyond the school walls – my global PLN.

10 ways to make meetings (and lessons) meaningful…

Does every meeting in your school relate to or result in learning?
If not, is the meeting worth having?

Does every lesson in your classroom contribute to meaningful learning, rather than completion of work?
If not, is the lesson worth having?

So far, I’ve read Chapter 1 of ‘Meeting Wise’ by Kathryn Parker Boudett and Elizabeth City, and I’m taken with it, right from the first two questions, with which I totally identify…

‘Have you ever had to sit through a whole hour when you felt like the substance of the meeting could have been handled in five minutes?’


‘Have you planned a thoughtful meeting only to have it derailed by a couple of rogues participants who have their own agendas?’

The authors highlight four aspects for careful consideration when planning successful meetings:


The meeting checklist they suggest includes twelve probing questions relating to the above, of which I have selected ten. The questions are theirs, the applications to the classroom are mine:

1. Have we identified clear and important meeting objectives that contribute to the goal of improving learning?
Do we know the purpose of every learning engagement in our classroom? Do the students? Is every single thing that happens in your learning space thoughtful and international?

2. Have we established the connection between the work of this and other meetings in the series?
Is it clear how today’s learning relates to other learning that has and will take place? Do students have opportunities to make connections with prior learning, construct meaning and apply learning in different contexts?

3 Have we incorporated feedback from previous meetings?
Do you seek feedback from your students about what they got out of learning experiences? Do you observe and listen to the learning and plan responsively?

4. Have we chosen challenging activities that advance the meeting objectives and engage all participants?
Are the learning engagements challenging, purposeful and engaging? Will they advance not just knowledge, but the growth of skills and attitudes that will matter in future learning?

5. Have we built in time to identify and commit to next steps?
Have we provided learners with time for thoughtful reflection and consideration of how to take their learning forward? Have we offered meaningful feedback, or rather feed forward that might guide them?

6. Have we built in time for assessment of what worked and what didn’t in the meeting?
I’m fond of the saying ‘everything is an assessment’. Have we observed and listened thoughtfully to what the learners say (and don’t say) as evidence of the development of skills and understanding? Have we identified misconceptions and highlighted further needs?

7. Have we gathered or developed materials that will help to focus and advance the meeting objectives?
Have we planned and developed provocations that will provoke thinking and engage learners with the intended issues, concepts and beyond? Have we carefully thought about the desired understandings then encouraged creative ways for students to embark on their own journeys to get to them?

8. Have we put time allocations to each activity on the agenda?
If you plan what will happen throughout your lessons, this one will make sense to you. As an inquiry teacher, it doesn’t apply in my context! We need to be ready to abandon the plan, if the learning takes us in a new direction. We need to plan in response to the learning.

9. Have we ensured that we will address the primary objective early in the meeting? 
Do we ensure we don’t waste time on activities that won’t lead to learning, but get right into the learning from the start? Can we take the role, hand out the books etc in a more efficient manner that doesn’t waste prime learning time? Have you read ‘The 5 Minute Teacher’ in which Mark Barnes highlights the idea of talking less and letting the learning happen?

10. Is it realistic that we could get through our agenda in the time allocated?
Have we filled a lesson plan with activities or have we allowed time to let the learning unfold? Will students be so busy competing tasks, they don’t have time to construct meaning? Have we ensured there will be time for depth of understanding?

What kind of leader are you?

Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose.

This is Daniel Pink’s message today about what motivates people.


Dear Principals all over the world,

How do you motivate your staff?

Is there real educational dialogue between you and your teachers? Do you meet with them regularly to share conversation about teaching and learning?

What’s your educational vision? What do you believe about learning? Are you driven by your passion for education? Are all of these evident in the way that you speak and act?

Do you value the perspectives of the people on the ground? Do you pay attention to their opinions and encourage them to act on their beliefs?

Do you know who the real leaders are in your school? Do you encourage their creativity, passion and innovation?

What kind of leader are you?


Questions about curriculum…


Letter to an imaginary educator…

Dear Anon,

As an educational leader, do you think your decisions should be based on beliefs about how learning best takes place?

Here are my school’s articulated learning principles:

  •      We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, learning styles, preferences and interests.
  •      Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  •      Learning includes acquisition of skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transferring to different contexts.
  •      Learning is active and social and is enhanced by collaboration and interaction.
  •      Learners need to feel secure, valued and able to take risks.
  •      Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  •      Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, which support learners taking ownership of their learning.

I have a few questions for you to consider:

What are your beliefs about learning? Do they coincide with ours?

Did you know that a curriculum should not be static, but constantly revisited and updated  to be current, relevant and promote authentic learning?

Do you think a curriculum has to be a set of books with prescriptive instructions for teachers?

Are you aware that workbooks do not usually foster meaningful learning?

Do you realize that teachers are capable, thinking human beings and don’t need prescribed programs in order to teach?

Do you know that prescriptive programs tend to stifle creativity and discourage teachers from pursuing new ideas and experimenting with different options?

Have you considered investing the money you currently spend on pre-packaged programs in freeing up teachers to think, learn and construct meaningful learning experiences for their students?

Have you ever asked students about what engages them and how they learn best?

Have you spent much time in a student centred classroom seeing how inquiry fosters a love of learning ?

Have you entertained the possibility that administrative matters can be dealt with via email and conversations in meetings should be about teaching and learning?

Have you considered that people with experience and a track record in successful teaching and learning might have something worthwhile to contribute?

Did you notice that education has changed and is constantly changing and that classrooms should not look the same as they did five, ten, or fifteen years ago?

Watch this video,  it might help…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Do you believe all educators should be learners first and foremost?

Do you lead by example?

Kind Regards,


10 things I have learned about leading…

Reflecting on my first half-year in my new role as Teaching and Learning Coordinator, here’s just a little of what I have learned…

1. Vision. Don’t just focus on the bricks. See the cathedral

2. Courage. Don’t be limited by your job description. Make a difference in any way you can.

3. Creativity. Think in new ways. Experiment with different ideas. Innovate.

4. Resilience. Rise above disappointments, complaints and people who work against you. 

4. Empathy. Remember that everyone has a story. Be patient. Avoid talking to people when you haven’t had enough sleep.

5. Reflection. Admit when you are wrong and apologise. Occasionally apologising when you weren’t wrong might be helpful too.

6. Collaboration. The power of a helpful, inspirational, global PLN is immeasurable. A trusted in-school PLN is even more valuable.

7. Communication: Talk. Explain. Ask. Listen. You can achieve a great deal via one conversation at a time.

8. Initiative. If you have an idea, run with it. Don’t wait for a better time, particular conditions or permission to try.

9. Persistence. If you believe in something, fight for it, negotiate for it, pay for it, work for it.

10. Humility. Ask for help. Consult. Get advice. If something is worthwhile, you don’t need your name on it. It’s not about who gets the credit.

What have I missed?


Does your school…?

Does every school have…

moments that are exhilarating, when the excitement of learning is palpable, everyone has an opportunity to learn and express themselves in their own way and teachers and learners are collaborators in the learning process?


moments of despair, where nothing goes to plan, technology fails or unexpected interruptions hinder learning?

Does every school have…

teachers who understand learning, who love to learn themselves, who provoke student inquiry and aren’t afraid to try new things to move learning forward?


teachers who go through the motions, with their eyes on the clock and who think teaching is just a job?

Does every school have…

units that inspire teachers and learners, provide opportunities for creativity and collaboration, engage the learners and excite them to want to inquire, explore and learn?


units that fall off the rails because of poor planning or misunderstanding or shortage of time or lack of motivation?

Does every school have…

leaders (at all levels) who are passionate about learning, who motivate, empower and innovate, who instigate change and shape culture?


leaders who dictate and enforce, focus on what’s expedient instead of on the learning and possibly don’t even care?

Does your school?


Leadership day…

We sat on the grass in silence and waited. A few kids saw us and sat down too. Eventually the others noticed and joined us in the circle. I drew a square on the large piece of paper in the middle. My colleagues Joc and Motti drew a roof and a door respectively. A pause… Tania was the first child to take the pen and add to the picture and then the kids each took a turn to draw something. The teachers had not yet said a word!

It was part of a leadership day for our primary school captains and the message of this particular activity was  that one can lead by example without actually telling anyone to do anything. When we discussed it afterwards, they got the point quickly, as I knew they would.

But what surprised me was the conversation during the time the teachers were silent…

Tania: ‘We’re supposed to add to the drawing’.

Others: ‘I want to draw the windows’.

‘I’m drawing a tree’.

‘Give me the pen.’

‘No, don’t push, we should be taking turns’.

‘Yes, they want to see if we will take turns’.

‘Let’s go round the circle and each draw one thing.’

‘Maybe it’s supposed to be the school.’

‘We have people in it, it’s a community.’

‘It represents a community of learners….’

I think I got more pleasure out of the spontaneous conversation than the planned discussion.


Leaders as learners…

The more I connect online with other educators through blogs and Twitter, the more I see how those who don’t are lagging behind in their learning. I was invited this week to share with my ‘leadership team’ (admin.)

We looked at what leaders get out of blogs…

We looked at what kids get out of blogs…

We had a quick overview of Twitter and educators worldwide shared what they get out of it.  The plan was to Skype with Patrick Larkin, a principal in Burlington, USA, but it didn’t happen because…

Feedback from my learners…

There is a world of people out there willing to share, learn together and support each other- You are not alone.

This provides the most wonderful, exciting opportunities to be a part of a learning community

I have spent time reading blogs – I came away feeling inspired, yet a little apprehensive  to write one.

Would love to explore twitter – it was a little bit too fast for me

We live in exciting times in terms of education.

I cant wait to begin exploring.