The business of education presents its own problems
If you haven’t already been engaged in CFG work yourself, you might assume your only involvement with Critical Friends Group® work consists in finding funding for coaches’ training for staff members, and then “making space” for the resulting CFG meetings. Certainly, you empower your teachers to focus on student work and improving their own practice, and that’s what CFG work is all about, right?
Yes and … most everything YOU do as a manager of people and resources can also benefit from NSRF® protocols and an administrative CFG community of your very own. School administrators around the world use our protocols to:
- improve communications with internal and external constituencies (including addressing chronic and “unsolvable” dilemmas),
- structure and lead more effective and efficient meetings,
- create and fulfill strategic plans,
- refine project plans and other documents,
- make brainstorming sessions result in actual next steps,
- and much more.
They need a room of their own … and you need one, too
Administrator-only CFG communities provide a trusted environment to work out dilemmas that may be inappropriate to share with your teaching staff. CFG work can help your administrative team share and learn from best practices throughout your organization and beyond, and create structure for meetings so work is actually accomplished rather than simply discussed.
Around the world, administrators have convinced us of the need for a shorter training fine-tuned to their own needs: they requested, and we’ve listened. Assuming you don’t need to coach CFG meetings, you can learn in a three-day admin training how to use our protocols and activities in your own work, and how to support your staff by understanding the work happening in their CFG communities. After your three days, you may, like many other administrators, be hungry to learn even more, and ask us to return for two more days of training but adding to the training is only an option, never a requirement. Completing five days of training allows you to become certified CFG coaches who can create and lead administrative CFG communities.
What the heck are they doing in there?
Aside from protocols that specifically address student work, what happens in a faculty CFG meeting or CFG training isn’t much different in structure than what you’ll do in your administrative version. In both the 3-day administrative training and the 5-day coaches’ training, participants will learn:
- the importance of consciously setting agreements and norms,
- specific perspective and tools on giving and receiving feedback that avoids defensiveness and increases understanding,
- activities that build trust in the group and enhance group dynamics and collegiality, and
- protocols that help participants address dilemmas, or improve and create materials.
Five-day trainings for classroom educators sometimes (but not always) include protocols designed to Look at (or Learn from) Student Work. And three-day administrative trainings include some additional protocols designed specifically for administrative work. Otherwise, the tools are the same but the product is different, much as you can use a screwdriver to build a desk or adjust the carburetor in your car.
Your investment, and its return
Depending on exactly where you’re located and how many people will be trained at one time, a three-day admin training for a group of fifteen runs about $575-650 per participant. We’ll hand-select a National Facilitator who’s experienced in working with administrators and who can refine your agenda to meet your specific needs. The fee also covers a Critical Friends Group Coaches’ Handbook for every participant, a frameable certificate for each graduate of the training, and a year’s membership in NSRF and the extra benefits that entails.
You will need to provide a suitable space to hold the training, food for the participants, and other materials used in the training such as chart paper, markers, post-it notes, printouts/copies of materials emailed to you, etc. We keep it as simple as we can.
Your return-on-investment may be measured in more effective meetings, greater teacher and staff retention, improved morale in the building, and personal job satisfaction.
Is your school or district looking for maximum effect, fast?
Critical Friends Group work is proven in its ability to transform a school’s culture positively and rapidly. Recent research finds a 10% increase in teacher retention compared to a control group, with 30% of participating teachers indicating that their participation in CFG communities positively influenced their decision to continue in teaching, in addition to the individual, helpful effect of specific protocol usage in CFG meetings.
For the fastest, most effective route to the most positive results, you’ll want to engage your entire staff in a multi-tier plan
Often, schools begin the process gradually by sending a handful of staff to an open training, then have those new coaches come back and start small, creating a couple of CFG communities that other faculty members soon clamor to join. But if you’re in the position to move more quickly, we recommend these steps:
- On-site trainings for at least one educator for every 8-15 staffers, so you have at least one coach for every CFG community to be established in the school,
- A separate on-site training for administrators, especially those in supervisory positions,
- At least one whole-day or half-day introductory workshop for the entire staff (including non-teaching staff if possible–you’ll be amazed at what can be gained from the inclusion of custodial and kitchen staff, for instance). Schools often conduct these workshops at or just before the beginning of an academic year, during in-service days. This gives everyone a common experience, a common vocabulary, and a common understanding of the work that will be put in place that year, and a direction for them to address questions or problems that arise in their work.
For a great example of how one school rolled out this plan, please read this story from our March 2013 issue of Connections, our bimonthly electronic journal.