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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A Teacher’s Gratitude Practice To Make It Through Virtual Faculty Meetings

by Erin Bryk

I’ve found faculty meetings to be challenging since my first year of teaching. Recently, however, I’ve found virtual faculty meetings to be exceptionally infuriating. When schools closed for distance learning, our faculty meetings were also held virtually and, very quickly, I dreaded logging on to Zoom for these meetings. 

I was increasingly impatient with and critical of other teachers. I had a litany of complaints by the end of each meeting: 

Why can’t this person use the mute function? 

Why does it take this person so long to share their screen? 

Why does this particular person always seem to have “tech issues?”

I was looking for things to be annoyed about. It was not fun.

Prior to school closures, my primary issue with faculty meetings was that they were tiring; they were tiring simply because I was tired. The meetings were at the end of what had already been — most likely — an exhausting day of teaching and I hadn’t had a break since lunchtime. 

After I signed in to the faculty meeting, I’d find a seat. I’d want to connect with my colleagues and help build a positive school culture, but I was just so tired that all I want to do was sit down, eat my snacks, and check my phone.

Around April, I recognized that there was an unhealthy pattern going on and spoke with a friend about it. By the end of the conversation, we’d decided that I needed to cultivate some sort of gratitude practice to not only make it through the meetings, but also change my attitude towards work altogether. 

I looked online, but didn’t come across a practice that I particularly loved, so I created this Virtual Faculty Meeting Gratitude Bingo game. (Side note: the hyper-organized-graphic-organizer-making teacher in me really came out here when I made this game.) 

In order to “play,” you need to stay engaged throughout the faculty meeting and fill out the bingo tiles as you go. For example, one tile instructs you to express gratitude to someone in the meeting’s chat and write down what you said to that person. Another tile requires you to actively listen and find a person who suggests a solution to a problem. 

It’s not bingo exactly; rather, it’s a game to play with yourself in order to stay in a state of gratitude. Although I’m sure that it would fun to do along with another teacher-friend, to keep yourselves accountable and share in the joy.

Playing bingo might seem silly and, perhaps, even distracting. However, this game helped me pay attention. I was fully present and “checked in.” I got excited about our meetings and started to log on early (?!). I connected with more of my colleagues and shared notes of appreciation. And, ultimately, rather than pointing out annoyances and wading in negativity, I was actively listening and searching for positivity, encouragement, gratitude, and praise. I was able to log off of each meeting in peace. Gratitude is healing and powerful.

The truth is there was nothing and is nothing wrong with the faculty at my school, or yours either. It’s just all about what we focus our attention on. We have a choice. 

Here’s some information if you would like to cultivate this gratitude practice this fall, too:

Step 1: Make a copy of this Google Slides presentation and save it to your own GoogleDrive.

Step 2. I use split view in order to have both the Zoom meeting and bingo board visible at the same time. You may need to zoom in on the bingo board in order to write on the slide.

Step 3. To “give yourself a chip,” copy & paste the bronze star and move it onto the bingo tile.

Step 4. As you play bingo, take meeting notes in the right-hand text box.

Step 5. Feel free to customize it! Change up the prompts. Make it your own.

The school year is starting up again and districts across the country are teaching remotely until at least mid-October. In my district, we’re starting out the new year with an entire week of online training on educational technology. This is very good and necessary training; however, Zoom fatigue is real. It’s important to guard against it by staying in a state of gratitude. I know that, for me, I’ll be using my bingo board to help me make it — joyfully — through virtual faculty meetings this fall. 

I hope you enjoy and make this practice your own, if you choose. Wishing you gratitude, peace, and health at the start of this truly remarkable school year.

About the Author

Erin Bryk is an educator, beginning her third year teaching with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She actively practices mindfulness, gratitude, and self-compassion in and outside of her middle-school classroom. 


related posts: 

Coping During COVID: Mindfulness and Self-Care for Adults and Kids

Quick Sanity Breaks for Mindful (but Busy!) Teachers

Resources for Practicing and Teaching Gratitude

Self-Care Resources for Educators