Last year, I read this post by John Spencer about the importance of being in a “Mastermind Group” with other educators. It’s basically a group of teachers that meet regularly to explore and share ideas and also give one another feedback. Because the members get to know each other well they can push one another in ways that would not be possible with other groups.
This idea has always stuck with me as something that would be great to implement with staff. So when we started exploring options for our monthly staff meetings as an instructional leadership team, I brought this up as a possibility for a way to structure our time. After talking through a variety of options, including a focus on the 6C’s or differentiated choices aligned to our School Improvement Plan, we ultimately decided on having staff finding a group of people who had written similar personal goals for the year.
The purpose behind this was twofold:
- It gave people time to delve more deeply into something they were already personally invested in.
- It made our goal writing process more meaningful because staff would have dedicated time to continually work on them. This is in contrast to past practice, where many educators (myself included) would wait until it was time to have a follow-up conference on their goals later in the year.
At our first meeting in September, we had staff members do a “speed date” activity where they moved around the room talking about their goals for the year with different people. Their goal was to find others who had similar interests or their “Goals Groupies.” When they found a “match,” they would write that person’s name down on an index card. At the end of the meeting, they met up with the people on their card and came up with an official focus for their group.
Although I had met with staff members on their goals for the year prior to this meeting, it was fun to see how groupies ended up evolving and what they ultimately chose to focus on. We had 5th-grade teachers working with first-grade and even kindergarten teachers. There were groups of specials teachers mixed with grade-level teachers. The goals chosen were just as diverse and included: SEL, critical thinking, parent communication, inquiry-based and real-world projects, reading fluency and accuracy, and facilitated IEP and collaboration.
This past Thursday was our second meeting. Our Goals Groupies were given time to explore their work more fully setting specific outcomes for their impact on students, creating a plan of action and agreeing on what they would bring to share at the next meeting. We gave them this template with guiding questions to help them to further think through their ideas. As I walked around the room, I listened to rich conversations and genuine enthusiasm for the work they were doing. It was a Thursday after school, but everyone was just as energized as if we were starting a fresh day.
This process has only reinforced my belief that when we empower staff to take the lead, we embolden change that impacts students far greater than any mandated initiative ever will. When staff is given dedicated time to collaborate with colleagues who have a common passion, we capitalize on our strengths as a school as well as build capacity in multiple grade levels. The goals the groups have chosen to work on have far surpassed my wildest dreams of what we could work on this year as a staff. I am beyond excited to see the impact on students as the year unfolds.