Making Meaningful Conversation in End of Year Meetings

Emma Foley
Curriculum Specialist
Blog on June 29 2022

The end of the year is a crazy and chaotic time for everyone in a school building. End of year celebrations, graduation and moving up ceremonies, the completion of cumulative records, and teachers packing up their classrooms are all included. In the midst of all this, it’s essential to carve out time to have end of year conversations. Although reflection should always be a part of every educator’s experience, taking the time to see the big picture at the end of the year is a great way to promote growth in school.

There is not a single proven successful model for valuable end of year conversations. In fact, you may find that a combination of reflective activities may work best for your staff. Activities can include one-on-one meetings, portfolio building, self-reflection or journaling, small group or department conversations, etc. 

Here’s a scenario for a reflective practice:

  • Have teachers put together a portfolio of work including lesson plans, unit plans, student examples, and assessment data.
  • Teachers should write a short blurb on what they believe to be some of their successes during the current school year. 
  • Teachers will have an individual check-in, ready to speak to these experiences.

The goal of these activities and the conversations that follow is to break the negative thought cycle. Focusing on success encourages teachers to continue doing what has worked for their students, but also gives them the confidence to experiment with new and upcoming tools to support their instruction.

Regardless of how you approach these meetings, and whether teachers will be required to complete any reflective activities prior to the meeting, reflection is a crucial step in the learning process. It can bring attention to all that has occurred during the year, as both the highlights and the experiences can be learned from.

Being an administrator isn’t an easy job, and it can especially be challenging when you need to have conversations about areas of improvement (the “tough conversations”) with your staff. Below, we will dive into some general guidelines for valuable end of year meetings with your staff, and tips for keeping the conversation constructive while highlighting teacher success. 

Suggestion #1: Share questions with teachers ahead of time

By the time May and June roll around, everyone is exhausted, so it is important not to overwhelm teachers or tire them further. However, sharing questions that you plan to discuss with them during your individual check-in can be very helpful. This will ensure that the conversation doesn’t end in responses such as, “I’m not really sure” or “To be honest, I didn’t really think about it.” There is no specific timeline for doing so, but you may want to consider sharing these questions with teachers two weeks prior to the conversation, giving them ample time to individually reflect.

Some questions that you might want to share with teachers could include:

  • Did you meet the goals you set for yourself back in September? How do you know?
  • What was one of your proudest moments this year and why?
  • What is something you’d like to try next year based on how this year went?
  • What did you learn about yourself or your pedagogy this year that surprised you?
  • How can our administrative team continue to support you as you grow as an educator?

If you need additional suggestions for reflection ideas, Cult of Pedagogy’s Gut-Level Reflection Questions is also a great resource to check out.

Suggestion #2: Come prepared – review records prior to the meetings 

As an administrator, you are likely responsible for the leadership of several staff members, perhaps even your whole staff. With that comes tons of data and information like teacher observations, formal check-ins, and informal conversations. With all this in mind, there is tremendous value in setting aside five to ten minutes, prior to meeting with a teacher, to look over their records and anything else you plan to reference during the check-in. This small effort can make all the difference when it comes to the quality of the conversation. The conversation will feel much more personalized when you take the time to look back at their most recent observation write-up, or possibly even review their assessment data to make the most practicable suggestions for improvement. 

Suggestion #3: Build teacher knowledge about school-wide (or district) goals 

Chances are, through these conversations, you are going to find that many of your teachers are not as well-versed about school-wide goals as you originally thought. Typically, only teachers who are involved in school goal setting and the creation of goal setting documents, such as the Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP), can tell you what the school wide goals are. Additionally, these teachers typically don’t see how the connection between their own instructional decisions contribute to the attainment of these goals. 

You may want to consider having these goals handy during end-of-year discussions. This will open up the conversation for teachers to share their interpretations of how these goals can be met and what they are doing personally to meet school-wide initiatives. You can even use this opportunity to gauge teacher interest in being a part of the goal writing process for the upcoming school year. You’ll likely find that some of your teachers have great suggestions!

Suggestion #4: Reserve time to set tentative goals for the next year

After discussing any successes or challenges, the conversation should shift into a discussion about the upcoming school year and tentative goal setting. This is especially important for teachers who may be switching grades or teaching a new subject area the following school year. These teachers may find that they have different goals for themselves than they had the current year.

A conversation about the future should be professional, but try to structure conversations in a more relaxing setting so that teachers feel comfortable opening up. You want teachers to be honest about any doubts or reservations they may have for the upcoming school year. This will help you to set up teacher partnerships to support them. It will also help you decide which workshops should be scheduled in the first couple months of the upcoming school year.

Suggestion #5: Take on a listening role

As an administrator, it may be difficult to take a back seat and give the teacher the opportunity to share their opinion. Let’s face it, conflict can happen when perspectives and personalities collide. Teachers don’t want to feel like there is a power struggle going on or that their opinion is not valued. It is okay to use this private opportunity to address any issues that you have noticed, or confront a teacher who may not appear to be committed to the values of their grade level team or PLC. However, it is not acceptable to deny them the opportunity to respond. It is important for you to listen and let them share their reasoning for their actions.

If you want the teacher to change a particular habit or behavior and be personally reflective, they need to be aware (and believe) that you have their best interest at heart. The best approach to navigating differing opinions that may come up is to listen actively and be sure that each teacher feels that their ideas and opinions are heard.

Teamwork starts with relationships, and end of year check-ins are a great way to foster growth and improvement with your staff. It is also a good time for you to do some self-reflection and plan goals for the coming year. If teachers and administrators take the time to properly reflect and implement the appropriate goals, it will ultimately lead to student growth and school-wide success.

To learn more about best practices for administrators check out our course offerings on our online professional development platform OTIS for educators.

For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.

We also offer virtual professional development, training, and remote learning support for educators with OTIS for educators. Explore the technology, tools, and strategies that can spark student success — no matter where teaching or learning are happening.

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