Fake Headteacher: Staff Meetings – Newsletter No.6

Dear Staff,

I hope you all had a lovely half term and didn’t think about school too much. Thank you to everyone who responded to my emails and text messages. I am a workaholic and can’t help myself. School is my life.

Thank you to everyone who also completed the school evaluation sheet on how efficiently our staff meetings operate. I was a little surprised with some of your comments so I would like to address your concerns in this newsletter.

Many of you said you wanted me to start staff meetings on time. We currently start about half an hour after the children leave. You said that starting fifteen minutes after the school day is ample time for people to grab a drink and have a toilet break. This would mean we would finish earlier or even on time. I disagree. I don’t get out of my office very much and I enjoy making small talk to staff as you mingle around wondering where the staff meeting is taking place and what the agenda is. We finish school at 3:00pm so if we take our time and aim to start between 3:30pm and 4:00pm, I can talk to more people about nothing important. It doesn’t matter to me what time I get home.

Someone recommended that I should be stricter about start times and ensure everyone is there promptly. I did wonder whether I should start meetings anyway and not wait for late arrivals. I suppose I could tell them off for being late afterwards. I guess it would mean we would finish on time. However, it does give me another opportunity to make even more small talk. I will think about this issue further and let you know my thoughts in a future staff meeting.

I enjoy changing the agenda each week. This way we can introduce a wide range of new policies. You can imagine my surprise when some of you reported that you feel nothing is properly embedded because I keep introducing new things. You said you would prefer to embed one initiative over consecutive meetings rather than covering lots of policies too quickly and leaving everyone confused on how to implement them. Surely the more I introduce, the faster progress we will make?

For example,  we recently discussed maths mastery, whole school spelling, safeguarding, talk for writing, assessment, whole class reading, phonics, PE, risk assessments and our new lengthy planning formats that I don’t look at. And to think we have covered all this in just three staff meetings! I realise we will have to find more time in the year to discuss them further but we did make some progress. Why would you want to discuss just one school improvement idea over a few weeks just so it can be thought out more carefully before moving on with something new? Again, I will consider this point and come back to it in a staff meeting in the future.

I have a very clear idea what direction I want to take the school. I always show you that I value your opinions by asking you to spend time brainstorming ideas towards a new policy. I will then thank you for your input before taking away your sheets to ‘file’. Many of you commented that this strategy actually devalues what you say because I later ignore your ideas by rolling out the new policy I wrote or downloaded from Google anyway. Please understand, it would be rude of me just to give you the new policy without discussion. It wouldn’t appear very democratic. However, I have noted your concerns and I promise we will discuss it in a future staff meeting. 

Several weeks ago I asked the question, “Should we blow the whistle once or twice to stop playtime?” You all looked at me blankly and I made a sarcastic comment along the lines of, “Is anyone listening to me? Do we need more coffee?” Apparently, some of you were offended by this remark. Some went further and explained that most of the time you don’t even want to be in the staff meeting after such a long and tiring day in the classroom and yes, your concentration isn’t what it could be at times. One member of staff even reported that some items we discuss are so mundane that some of you switch off. Apparently, you are bored discussing what colour pens we write with and how much stationery we have or haven’t got.   Maybe I need to make more executive decisions (like the whistle on the playground) as it seems many of you don’t actually care either way. Perhaps we can come back to this matter in another staff meeting?

I appreciate staff meetings should only last an hour (especially when you have other meetings and clubs in the week). However, because we don’t get started for at least half an hour after school, you must assume they will last a lot longer. Because we are so busy I think it’s a good use of our time. It’s a great way to catch up with each other and bond a little. 

It’s lovely that many of us start talking off task which often results in laughs and giggles. This is why I don’t mind staff meetings taking nearly two hours. However, many of you also mentioned in your evaluations that you would like me to reign in the non essential chatting so we can make better use of the time. Some of you said that you have families to go home to which is why you leave at 5:00pm regardless. I am uncomfortable that you feel the need to leave staff meetings earlier than everyone else. It’s not really fair on your colleagues who stay right to the end. Again, I will give it some thought and come back to you in another staff meeting.

I am fully aware that I have my favourite teachers and year groups. Whenever I can, I will praise them in staff meetings. You should all aspire to be like them. I understand this can make you feel bad about yourself but I like doing it. In fact, I was glad that some of you picked up on this strategy on your evaluation sheets. When I can, I will praise my favourites in every staff meeting. I only tend to listen to what they contribute. A member of staff said in her evaluation, “What’s the point sharing my ideas. You won’t like them anyway.” I am sad about this but it’s totally true. I won’t come back to this in a future staff meeting. I am happy to do this every week. 

Finally, can I thank you all for the additional discussions we have at the end of our meetings. As you know, I am very relaxed about “Any other business?” It’s such a valuable use of our time to go around the room asking everyone if there’s anything else they want to add. The first Head teacher I worked for was so boring. We had to let her know before staff meetings what we wanted to discuss so she could prioritise items. She also said that “any other business” should be restricted to reminders or quick messages and not for asking lengthy last minute questions or handing out documents for us to look at during the week etc. I disagree with her philosophy. I am never in a rush to leave school so I am always happy to chat about anything at the end. Your evaluation sheets suggest that you dread this additional conversation and just want to go home. We will come back to this matter in a future staff meeting.

Just to clarify, there will always be a staff meeting each week even though sometimes we don’t need one. I just love having them. It was suggested that I could occasionally cancel non essential staff meetings so you could catch up with your heavy workload. No. 

Please remember next week’s staff meeting is on our new initiative ‘How to plan a good design and technology unit of work.’ I know this isn’t top priority at the moment but we mustn’t ignore the wider curriculum. We can come back to what maths mastery looks like in a future staff meeting.

If you need to discuss anything else about our staff meetings, I will be in my office pretending to look at your planning and timetables.

Fake Headteacher

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