This posting is part of a series, aimed at sharing high-impact ideas and practices for consideration in relation to Collaborative Team Meetings.
A decade ago, when just beginning to reflect upon and share the impact of the Collaborative Team Meeting, we believed that the number of students addressed was directly correlated to the ultimate success of the meeting. The more students identified and linked to resulting interventions, accommodations and strategies during the course of the meeting, the better. Although this did contribute to increased awareness of student need, an overall sense of team and incredibly efficient and structured conversations, it didn’t allow for the meaningful sharing and examination of classroom practices to best support the needs of students. We now know that the Collaborative Team Meeting, as part of a layered approach for Collaborative Structures and Processes, is the venue where we identify a student with a key issue to initiate a conversation about classroom pedagogy and brainstorm potential responses we could be considering.
Having teachers come to the Collaborative Team Meeting prepared for the conversation is critical to its success. Integral to coming prepared is the utilization of a pre-meeting organizer.
Access a Pre-Meeting Organizer template
A pre-meeting organizer ensures that teachers come ready to respond to the question “so who would you like to discuss?” In time, the pre-meeting organizer can be directly linked to key data measures, so that the data plays a role in identifying the students we should be directing our collective attention to. Simply put, it ensures we come ready for the conversation. As shown in the template, there are a number of considerations when utilizing the pre-meeting organizer as part of the structures and processes for the Collaborative Team Meeting:
Less is more
The intent is not to come with numerous students identified to “update or cover” during the meeting. Instead, coming ready with 3-5 students is key, as the students are then used to initiate a conversation focused on a key issue.
In fact, when first introducing collaborative team meetings, we encourage schools to utilize a simplified pre-meeting organizer, that focuses on bringing only two students - one to celebrate and a student of concern.
Student to celebrate
Every Collaborative Team Meeting should start with celebrations. In that conversation, we not only want to articulate the success of a student, but to dig into why that success is happening. What have we or you done that led to that success? This not only builds a sense that our efforts are bringing about success for students, but also prompts teacher reflection and an identification of strategies that may be beneficial for others in the meeting. It may solicit an idea or an approach that could be considered for another student. In essence, it creates a reflective space that reinforces what we do makes a difference. Coming prepared for that conversation is important.
When coming with a student in mind to discuss, it is a valuable exercise to reflect upon their individual strengths and interests in advance of the conversation. Although that does not impact the focus on the key issue, upon which we can attach other students to the conversation, it does assist when it comes to determining an appropriate response for the individual student. The student is a skillful artist and loves drawing? Is that something we could consider leveraging when determining an action for my classroom as a response? Including this in the pre-meeting organizer helps to reinforce that every student we bring to the conversation is not defined by the issue we are experiencing - they are a complete being, with strengths and interests we should be aware of and tapping into when considering a response.
It is intentional that this area is named “Key Issue” rather than “Key Issues”, as well as having a box that is minimal in size. The point of the Collaborative Team Meeting is not to bring forth a backstory or identify a number of areas of concern for a single student. The intent is to identify a student, quickly determine a key issue that is happening that we can impact and then attach other students to the same key issue (access a blog posting on Shifting to Key Issues for further details). Therefore, brevity is crucial in this section of the organizer. Although the meeting process will help to more clearly define the key issue that is happening, it is important to understand that the point is to be able to link other students potentially experiencing the same key issue.
The Collaborative Team Meeting is not intended to only engage in conversation focused on students who may be struggling. It is also important to use the same facilitated process to identify students who we wish to provide a level of enrichment or further challenge. The process is exactly the same (identify a student, articulate a key issue, link other students to the conversation, brainstorm and share potential strategies and responses, determine specific actions to take) but provides the venue for the examination of another aspect of our classroom practices to support the needs of all students.
The Role of the Facilitator
In the Collaborative Team Meeting, it becomes the role of the facilitator to determine where to go in the conversation. Following celebrations, I may go to teacher A to identify a student of concern and determine a key issue for discussion. I may go to teacher B to identify a student to enrich or challenge to begin a conversation. The idea is not that each teacher gets through all their students, but rather that they are 100% prepared for the question when it comes to them. They have engaged in some reflection prior to the team meeting so that during the meeting, we can focus on the conversation, rather than needing to review class lists or analyze data to determine a student to discuss.
Are the pre-meeting organizers submitted?
No, they are meant to be a reflective tool for the teacher. We always recommend having them printed, so that a teacher can just quickly jot some notes prior to the meeting. This also combats the urge to write a story about a student or become yet another thing on the plates of our busy educators. Following the meeting, it may be valuable to shred the pre-meeting organizers, as they are not intended to be documentation to be submitted.
Do only teachers complete a pre-meeting organizer?
Yes. Although the Collaborative Team Meeting needs to involve other participants, such as administrators, educational assistants and others with specialized skills, it is the teachers who start the conversations from their pre-meeting organizers. Once a key issue is determined, anyone in the room can identify other students with the same issue, participate actively in the brainstorming and be assigned actions from the conversation. However, having the teacher bring forth the student with a key issue brings attention back to the classroom practice, which is intended to be the focus of the Collaborative Team Meeting.
This example of a pre-meeting organizer from Connaught School in Medicine Hat reflects the principles discussed in this blog, while also integrating a brief checklist to ensure some pre-work has been accomplished prior to the team meeting, including a review/reflection on data and a short checklist to help determine which students should be brought to the conversation.
Access a pre-meeting organizer sample from Connaught School
The utilization of a pre-meeting organizer ensures that the Collaborative Team Meeting can be focused, with participants arriving prepared. It infuses an element of teacher reflection and subsequent articulation of successful strategies and key issues they are experiencing that, over time, helps to reinforce high levels of vulnerability and openness to engage in some new learning and practices that may have impact for students at the classroom level.