Home Leadership Six Ways to Spice Up Back-to-School Inservice

Six Ways to Spice Up Back-to-School Inservice

by Diana Benner

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching and teachers will be walking in the front door for their first back-to-school inservice. This can be one of the most important and productive professional development opportunities of the school year. But on the other hand, it can also be one of the most dreaded for teachers, who want time to work in their classrooms. So how can you spice up your inservice and ensure it isn’t a wasted meeting? Find some suggestions below.

1 – Have a Plan and Invite Your Staff to Share in It

The first “must” for a successful inservice meeting is to have a plan and an agenda in place. Agendas make it easier to stay on track and follow up with important items. When creating your agenda, remember that you want to make effective use of everyone’s time. Be sure to include a section for action items so that everyone can have an overview of what needs to be done.inservice

It is so easy to create your agenda electronically, for example with Google Docs. There are many agenda templates that exist as well. Look at this sample agenda. Once thing you will notice is that it has a place to take collaborative notes. There’s no need to have notes or minutes being taken separately when they can be done on the agenda itself. If you share the agenda with your secretary or even some of your staff members, they can collaboratively take minutes.

Another thing you can do is share or email the agenda to all staff members in advance of the meeting. Invite them to contribute topics or ideas that they think should be added to the agenda. This will show that you value their thoughts and they will be more invested in your time together.

2 – Don’t Do All the Talking

As the principal, you don’t have to do all the talking at the inservice. Allow your staff members to shine by having them lead a part of the meeting. Giving your staff that opportunity will help develop your school leaders as well as build staff morale. You could assign teachers roles, topics, or updates that they will, in turn, share with the entire group. Your teachers will feel empowered by taking a more active part in the inservice. Remember, teachers love to teach, so utilize that when planning your inservice.

3 – Break the Ice

The start of a new school year can be nerve-wracking, not just for students, but for teachers, too. Why not incorporate a fun, getting-to-know you activity? Giving your teachers time to share special facts about themselves or share fun things they did this summer will help ease those nerves. This is also the perfect time to introduce and recognize any staff members who are new and learn a little more about them.

Icebreakers help you build relationships with your staff. Try to use icebreakers that your staff can use with students in the classroom so they can build relationships with their students, too. It never hurts to model what you want to see in the classroom. You can find a few icebreaker activities at Classroom Icebreakers for Back to School and Even More Classroom Icebreakers for Back to School. The great thing about those icebreakers is that they incorporate technology. The ISTE Standards for Administrators say that you should promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital age tools (ISTE Standard 3c). Digital icebreakers will help you do that.


Click on the image to see a Two Truths and a Lie Icebreaker. The password is Icebreaker.

4 – Try Something Different

There are so many things you need to cover at the beginning of the year inservice, such as policies and procedures. These aren’t necessarily the most exciting topics to discuss; but nevertheless, they must be covered. Therefore, why not incorporate a little fun into reviewing these less-than exciting topics by using a little variety? Instead of showing a PowerPoint, have the teachers complete a scavenger hunt or some type of game. Have them compete in a smack down or rotate around the room to have quick conversations about specific topics. You can find these ideas and more at Innovative Professional Development Models.

back-to-school inservice

Example of a speed dating professional development activity

5 – Incorporate the Three F’s

Do your best to incorporate the three F’s:

  • Food. Food can have a tremendous impact on the meeting’s productivity and outcome. I always liked the saying, “To Meet Better, Eat Better.” You will especially want to provide a snack for your teachers to avoid afternoon slowdowns.
  • Freebies. It’s always a good idea to give your staff something to welcome them back. It could be something like a pen, water bottle, or coffee mug that has the school logo on it. If there aren’t any discretionary funds available for this, then you could make something for them. It’s the thought that counts.
  • Feedback. Feedback is important and we all know it. As mentioned in #1, getting input from your staff will show you value their thoughts and opinions. Make sure you provide opportunities for your staff to speak up during the inservice.

6 – Start with the End and End with the Positive

At the beginning of your inservice, make the goal or objective for coming together very clear. Ensuring that your staff knows what the expected outcomes are will make for a more efficient inservice.

Lastly and most importantly, make sure you end each day on a positive note. Let your staff know how much you appreciate them. Make these days about them and be visible and ready to help them when needed.

Have a Great Inservice

Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas on how to spice up your inservice and get off to a great start. It’s a busy time of the year, so make the first days with your staff count as much as possible.


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