RENEW
Sep 21, 2012

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5 Common Problems in Art Department Meetings and How to Fix Them

For the past three years part of my job description involved creating, planning and implementing professional development for the art teachers in our district. I planned all of the full day PD Sessions as well as our weekly PLC Meetings. I truly LOVE my job. Through this experience, I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in an art department meeting. Believe me, I’ve seen it all, the good (teachers collaborating to develop a common assessment), the bad (no one can agree and the meeting goes no where) and the ugly (all out fights!). If you are lucky enough to meet as an art group, even once a year, you might find the same type of ‘meeting issues’ getting in the way of your productivity. I mean seriously, throw a bunch of right brained creatives in a room and ask them to sit all day can be a recipe for disaster! Wink. In the end, any issues your team has both publicly and privately also decrease your professionalism in the eyes of administration,which is the last thing you need when the arts are constantly having to defend themselves anyway!

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Today I want to share the top 5 “No No’s” that art teachers make during meetings and a simple solution for each. Hopefully this will help you keep your group on track so you can to the good stuff, and be more productive in your meetings.

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5 Common Problems in Art Department Meeings and How to Fix Them  

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Complaining – Our meetings turn into gripe sessions” 

It can be very easy to let complaining take over what should be a productive meeting. If you have jobs for everyone during the meeting to keep them busy and productive, and group norms in place, this will help dramatically. If you still have a “negative nancy” in your group, simply try to redirect them to the focus. You can write on the board a mini goal for this hour of work, and remind them of the task at hand. If an outcome is expected, and something needs to be produced, there won’t be time for griping. Stick to the agenda and whenever someone complains ask them if they have any SOLUTIONS to the issue. Be 100% solution based. For every issue, brainstorm 5 solutions.

“Not everyone is on board with the common goal and they are deterring our mission” 

I would recommend always having an administrator present in your art meetings. If you have an administration present, it will help teachers to act professional and help the large group get something done. If a particular individual will not buy into the PD or gives up and shuts down, you may need to move along without them. Don’t let one person deter the whole group’s mission. As art educators we need to act professionally in order to be taken seriously and get our programs valued in the eyes of others.

“Everyone is losing focus as the day goes on”

I call this the “Witching Hour”….What is the witching hour, you might ask? It’s the hour after everyone comes back from lunch on a full day of Professional Development. Energy is low. Digestion is high. Moods get cranky and patience gets thin. This is the part where everyone starts to loose steam and motivation and the afternoon can get long. My facilitation partner and I strategically planned activities after lunch that got everyone up and moving, got them outside, or planned a half hour of a fun art activity for people to do as they came in from lunch. It really helped!

“We get off track and sidebar conversations distract our work”

Again, your norms (meeting expectations) and group jobs should prevent this from happening. If people are side-baring or getting off topic, the time keeper needs to be sure to remind everyone of the goals for the day. It sounds rude, but someone (usually the facilitator) you will need to call their bluff and just remind them that sidebars are rude and not productive. It sounds harsh, but most people will feel bad. They just aren’t used to having structure, and you are here to provide that. It’s part of being a professional, on their part, to adhere to the group norms.

“We don’t have anything to show for our day but a bunch of hot air!”

Ha, I know this complaint well. This is how all of our meetings were before we went to a structured model. It all comes down to the need for structured actives to follow if your meeting is going to be productive. You need new learning in topics specific to art education with outcome based tasks. Most departments spend their meetings planning an art show, or sharing lesson ideas. This great, but it sure doesn’t have a lot of depth. The real learning comes when the whole team gets some new information and takes it directly back to the classroom.

I hope these solutions will help you at your next art department meeting, they’ve sure helped us! 

Actually, I have one more thing I’d like to share that I think you might be interested in to take your PD to the next level. Perhaps your art team is in need of direction, but you aren’t sure exactly where to turn. I am excited to share that AOE will be launching PD Paks in just a few weeks. PD Paks were developed with the intent of  giving you absolutely everything you need to conduct and carry out meaningful professional development in your own art department, and hopefully save you from the boring general PD sessions you are usually invited to sit in on (we’ve all been there)! Start putting the bug in your administration’s ear… PD doens’t have to stink for your art team this year.

Do you get to meet with other art teachers for professional development? What’s it like?


Have you experienced some of these same issues in your art department meetings?

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  • Cathy

    Hi Jessica

    I cannot wait for the PD Paks!! Ironically I have an art department meeting this coming Monday with other art teachers in my private school district. The art teachers normally have never met during professional development days, let alone at all. I e-mailed one of the art teachers last year suggesting that we get together during these days, at least just to meet each other and share what is happening in our art rooms. I never heard anything back until just this year….so I was thrilled. Gosh…go figure! A teacher who is thrilled about a PD meeting! 

    Hopefully our meeting will go pretty well! :)

    • http://www.theartofed.com/ Jessica Balsley

      Cathy,.
      As always, please let me know if your department has any questions along the way! 

  • Cindy

    Thank you! As Art Department Chair I am responsible for a monthly PD meeting. We have experienced all the issues you covered. I would love a copy of your PD Paks . I think that will help us focus and get to some real issues specific to art. I am also glad to know my concerns are seen elsewhere and not just my district. It’s hard to find information specifically for art chairs. Thanks!

  • Jenniferg70

    What timing…our first dept meeting is this Thursday and our chair has been replaced by an assistant principal. We ate all anxious to see what this dynamic will create in our large group of 15 art teachers! Thanks for the recommendations. I’m sure the presence of the admin will keep us well behaved!

    • http://www.theartofed.com/ Jessica Balsley

      Jennifer – You might be surprised that others will step up and lead. I hope the meeting went well. 

  • Susie Belzer

    Good timing!  I also have a PD meeting this week with the other elementary art teachers in the district.  In past years we have only briefly met at inservices with the K-12 art staff.   This year they are having elementary teachers get together to do some common planning.  I just downloaded your eBooks on assessment and building an art curriculum; two things which I hope to cover during our meeting.  And yes, I’m excited for PD!!!

    • http://www.theartofed.com/ Jessica Balsley

      You are going to love the time to have common planning with other art teachers – how lucky! I hope the books help you as you plan and implement PD. Good luck!

  • http://mrseukensartmooseum.wordpress.com/ Eukent

    Problem #1,  we don’t have art department meetings.  There are only 4 art teachers in our district K-12,  each at a different building (or 2)  and our PD time is all allocated towards RTI interventions,  not to our subject area.