I have recently been studying up on brain based learning as our school begins to learn about trauma and trauma informed teaching. I’ve been reading The Education Revolution: How to Apply Brain Science to Improve Instruction and School Climate by Horacio Sanchez. Part of my learning process is trying to relate what I’m reading to my current position as principal. With staff meetings and meetings in general taking up a lot of my time it seems to make sense to analyze meetings and see if brain based strategies can create a more impactful and effective staff meeting. As I reflected, I realized that sometimes I use these 3 brain based strategies but without the intentionality that could make the meeting a better opportunity for staff learning.
Routines and Sequencing
The brain can do higher order thinking once it has foundational knowledge grounded in long term memory. Horatio states “The ability to identify core information is the foundation of advanced learning” (p. 24). For that reason starting each staff meeting the same and having it follow the same general format is a great way to help staff be ready to dig into the complex issue you wish to present. Take a look at your agenda you’ll see that in general you probably have the same general sequence. You probably didn’t even think about it but did it instinctively. If you happen to see large variations, moving forward try to bring your agendas into alignment. If your staff’s brains aren’t trying to figure out what is going on they can more easily process information.
If you close your eyes and imagine your favorite dinner. More than likely it’s something from your childhood, something you ate when you felt safe and loved. The same idea applies to staff meetings. Find ways to create a relaxed environment. One of the norms for our meetings is to provide snacks. :-) We try to make these “healthy” but sometimes after a tough day Doritos and Fritos go more quickly than the pears and carrots. Horatio explains that, “optimal brain functioning occurs when chemical secretions in the brain are in balance. . “(p. 5). This is why when we feel safe learning is easier. Before budget cuts most staff meetings had some sort of snack. It’s in our best interests as a principals to create as much comfort as possible in a meeting. This is a brain based strategy that most of us typically employ.
Kudos, Kudos for everyone
Kudos are an acknowledgement for a job well done. I usually being staff meetings with these because it’s a great way to relieve stress, get people to laugh and reconnect with the positive things being done. I find these especially valuable after a tough day or week. I didn’t realize that this was also good science. Horatio explains that, “when you laugh, the brain secretes hormones that not only relax us but also allow us to be open to new ideas” (p. 11). I just wanted to break up the negativity that staff can often fall victim to. Starting with kudos creates a positive momentum that makes it easier to get through an agenda.
Staff meetings can sometimes feel like a necessary evil. By intentionally employing these brain based strategies to start a staff meeting I’m hoping to have staff meetings that are impactful. Having routines and sequences, creating a comfortable environment and beginning with kudos are three brain based strategies that can be used in every meeting.
What are other brain based strategies you use to run a great meeting. Share your knowledge with your colleagues in the comment section below.
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm an owner of a new food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......