As a leader in an independent school during these challenging times, you’re undoubtedly thinking about how to meet the diverse and abundant needs of your entire school community. And as a team leader, you’re probably also wondering how best to support your teachers through this period of rapid transition and crisis. How might you continue to serve as a resource for your teachers, as a source of stability and continuity, and as a partner and collaborator as they work to adapt – professionally and personally – to this stressful situation?
One piece of advice from the research? Slow down, ask questions, and listen. Create the time and space to check in with teachers, to empathize with teachers, and to hear what they need – right now and tomorrow and the next day – to keep moving ahead into this unknown.
Research shows us that learning cannot happen when the “fight or flight” response has been activated. And since we’re asking teachers to engage in some pretty heavy and complex learning right now, we need to have teachers who are primed and receptive and ready to think flexibly and change course as needed. Not teachers who are frightened and shut down.
So how can you, as a team leader, help your team move into this learning zone? One concrete way is to begin each encounter – whether it be an informal conversation or a more formal faculty meeting – with a check-in. A time for teachers to share how they’re feeling, for others to listen expansively, and for you, as a leader, to get a deep sense of where your teachers are right now so that you then develop compassionate and informed plans for moving forward together.
Here’s a quick check-in protocol to use with your faculty.
Virtual Check-in Circle
- Benefits: allows people to move beyond distractions and pressing needs to be fully present; drives understanding and awareness; gives everyone a voice; reinforces trust; connect us in our shared humanity
- Designate 5-10 minutes (give or take, depending on the size of the meeting) in the agenda, at the start of the meeting.
- Check-ins work best when you can see the other person/people so think about using video conferencing for these types of meetings.
- Designate a facilitator to ask a check-in question (while you might want to start as the check-in facilitator, think about transitioning this role as you get used to this structure)
- Ask a check-in question: “What has your attention right now?” “What are you bringing to this meeting?” “Where are you right now?”
- Each team member responds, reserving the right to pass if they chose. Rotate until everyone has had a chance. Listen with no response or follow-up from anyone in the group.
* Note for the Leader: While this check-in protocol does not include a wrap-up or synthesis of the conversation, you might want to consider keeping track of recurrent themes shared during the check-ins to inform potential follow-up to individual team members (sharing of pertinent resources, additional conversation).
Interested in learning more and trying this out with your team? We’ve compiled a few resources below – try them and let us know how the check-in process works for helping guide your team through these difficult times!
- Checking in and Out: What’s that All About?
- For More Productive Meetings, Do a Mindset Check-in First
- Check-in Circle
- Icebreakers and Warming Up Protocols
- Expansive Listening
For our evolving list of suggestions and ideas, visit our Resources page at https://foliocollaborative.org/resources/