Staff Crew: Plans and Activities
Part of the Virtual Crew Collection
Even when school is happening in a building, there’s a balance to strike between “taking care of business” meetings and “taking care of each other” meetings. Right now, keeping the community connected and nurturing staff sense of belonging, purpose, and agency needs even more attention, as there’s no physical proximity to fall back on to maintain staff community. Students need to feel that they are still part of a school community, and that means adults need to keep healthy connections going.
Many of our partners are scheduling weekly team (grade and or department) meetings for taking care of business, with whole-staff huddles happening at other times to take care of each other, and organizing other ways of offering mutual support from afar.
Some examples from around our network:
- An all-staff virtual meeting scheduled every other week, including non-teaching staff. 50 staff members sang the school’s morning announcements song and shared some readings related to challenge and strength; used breakout groups to connect, and then shared "top 3 things that are challenging about working from home" and "top 3 things you enjoy about working from home"
- Every week in addition to grade and department meetings, staff have a brief Wednesday morning huddle and closing circle on Fridays to process the week’s highs and lows
- All-staff walking challenge with gift card rewards for those moving the most
Whether in team meetings or whole staff calls, giving adults an opportunity (though not an obligation) to process their own experience of this crisis matters. The way you run a staff crew virtual meeting will depend on the platform, on whether it is the whole staff the whole time, or happens in smaller crews that have already been formed and operating while school was in the building, or randomized breakout rooms. What you talk about will depend on the trust you already have, and what people have going on in their own lives during this crisis. Always, the goal is to maintain connection, and support individual and collective senses of belonging, purpose, and agency.
As with virtual student crew, prioritize simplicity. Here are a few examples of staff crew plans to adapt to your circumstance. (Click here for Google Doc version, using one of the Virtual Crew planning templates.)
Topic: Circling up virtually and checking on each other
Greeting: In the chat box, share someone or something that helped you get through this week..
Reading: “We have a choice of how to show up with our loved ones, students, and colleagues. We can grasp for control with transactional communications and attempts to "manage distance learning," or we can grasp for connection with more fluid ways of being, communicating, and learning together. To choose the latter, we have to be still enough to hear our own heartbeats. We have to be centered enough to hold one another through the uncertainty. We have to learn to be connected and in community even while socially distant.” -Shane Safir
Activities: Discussing reading: That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief
Questions for discussion: What rang true or didn’t? What do you want to remember? What ideas here do you see our school already acting on? What does it make you wish we would do?
- Have people read in advance, and let it be ok if they don't.
- Discuss in breakout rooms and have a way for trends from small groups to be lifted up
Check out in chat box: Type a word in the chatbox for how you are leaving our time together (facilitators, save these to skim for patterns after).
Topic: Assessing staff capacity, comfort levels, and conditions (e.g. kids or others they are caring for at home) around remote teaching
Greeting: In the chat box, share the most absurd moment from virtual learning this week.
Reading: “And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”- Haruki Murakami
What have you noticed/learned about yourself that is either changing during this time, or just newly apparent to you?
Activities: Check in on how virtual teaching is going: what’s going well, what’s not, what conditions folks are facing at home that must be accounted and planned for.
- Could happen in breakout rooms, or via survey (here is one example).
- If a survey: give teachers time to take it, and talk a little in small groups about what’s going well and what’s not.
- If breakout rooms: ask each group to share back trends about what is going well and what’s not, and any “blind spots” it doesn’t seem are yet being thought about or addressed, for staff or students.
Check out in chat box: Type a word in the chatbox for how you are leaving our time together (facilitators, save these to skim for patterns after)
Topic: How we go forward as a staff crew
Greeting: In the chatbox, shout out a student or colleague that made you laugh this week (and why)
Reading: “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace - not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” --James Baldwin
What have you seen in terms of “daring” and/or “growth” from your colleagues so far?
Activities: Look over the survey data or breakout room trends from our previous crew meeting.
- What do you see?
- Given what you see, what should we start, stop, or continue doing? Do we need any updates or adjustments to staff norms or consistencies?
- How do we give each other grace as do our best right now?
Check out in chat box: Reflect on what you’ve heard yourself and your colleagues say over our last few meetings. Assuming that we all have both gifts to offer and needs for support, what gifts can you offer? What needs are you most interested in getting support around right now?
(Facilitators save these gifts/needs, consider creating a “mutual support” spreadsheet or other way to capture what people are able to offer/are finding they need right now.)
Other sources for staff crew activities:
- 51 Activities for Virtual Team Building via MuseumHack
- Effective Virtual Team Meetings via NYC Outward Bound Schools
And for treasure hunters out there, we are maintaining this public folder with everything we find.