We have shared in a previous post the power of maximum staff involvement for Collaborative Team Meetings, which includes assistants, counselors, learning coaches and teachers, as one element of a Collaborative Response Model. Administrators not only need to ensure that the time is embedded to allow these meetings to occur. Administration, whether principals or assistant principals, also play a valuable (if not critical) role in Collaborative Team Meetings when they are involved in these meetings, in a number of different ways.
Consideration #1: Participating in these meetings focused on the needs of students speaks loudly regarding what is truly most important in the school. Administrators that set the myriad of other responsibilities aside to roll up their sleeves and actively participate in these meetings show true commitment to collaborative efforts and a laser-like focus on student needs.
Consideration #2: The meeting is yet another opportunity for administrators to continue to communicate the focus for the school and the priority placed on student growth and progress. “When the administrator is actively involved in adopting the model and sends the message through ongoing meetings and discussions that it is a school priority, there is a greater chance of success” (Haager & Mahdavi, 2007, p. 260). When administrators are truly part of the “we”, it galvanizes and recognizes the efforts of each staff member.
Consideration #3: Having administrators involved in the collaborative team meetings can provide an additional level of response when planning and coordinating interventions for students. Picture the following scenario, related to addressing student behaviour:
Team Member 1 – “If we could take those three students together for ten minutes after lunch recess, we could debrief recess and discuss what positive choices they made when playing with other children”
Team Member 2 – “I’m supposed to be in the grade 5 class right after recess but they typically take about ten minutes for independent reading time. I’m sure it would be all right with the teacher if I was a little late. The only problem is that I have supervision at the other end of the playground during the lunch recess and it would be difficult to maintain that supervision and then dash to catch those three students at the other end of the school after recess.”
Principal – “No problem – I can make a supervision adjustment to put you at that end of the school during lunch recess. I’ll take care of it and email you the adjustment.”
An administrator has the ability to make these adjustments and macro-level revisions, which can be tremendously beneficial when problem-solving to determine creative and responsive interventions and actions to support students in the collaborative team meetings. Imagine the previous dialogue without the administrator involved in the meeting! It would involve someone taking the responsibility of making the request to an appropriate administrator, who does not have the background information that was involved leading up to the request and adds another level of bureaucracy or the time involved to put what should be a very simplistic action in place.
Consideration #4: Perhaps the most important reason for administrators to be involved in the meeting is the knowledge that a they gain about individual students, staff collaborative efforts, individual teacher instructional responses and other vital information directly related to the most fundamental purpose of the school’s existence – student learning. Principals who participate in collaborative team meetings are able to gain an intimate understanding of students in the school, as well as how staff worked together to meet those complex needs in the classroom. Classroom observations, reading of report card comments or conversations with individual teachers can not have provide the same depth of knowledge and understanding that participation in collaborative team meetings assures. Administrator involvement is critically important when establishing collaborative team meetings.
When first starting with collaborative team meetings, consider having the principal (or other designated administrators) serve as “chair” for the meeting. Since we know that “the principal’s presence signals that the work being done is important, and teachers perceive this as an acknowledgement that their efforts are being recognized and appreciated” (Moller & Pankake, 2006, p. 80), playing this important role at the outset of establishing these meetings sends a powerful message. In time, this role can (and should) shift to other members of the team as capacity is developed. However, when a principal serves as the leadership model for how we collaboratively address and work to meet the individual needs of students, it firmly establishes the importance of these meetings in an overall Collaborative Response Model.
Haager, D. & Mahdavi, J. (2007). Teacher roles in implementing intervention. In D. Haager, J. Klingner, & S. Vaughn (Eds.), Evidence-based reading practices for Response to Intervention (pp. 245-263), Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Moller, G., & Pankake, A. (2006). Lead with me: A principal’s guide to teacher leadership. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.