Joanne Robinett’s Top 10 Inservice Must-Haves

The May 2017 issue of School Nutrition got school nutrition professionals ahead of the curve by encouraging early back-to-school planning. One of the main features by consultant JoAnne Robinett, MSA, SNS, “That’s Infotainment,” asserts the value of planning a staff inservice with dedication and fun to match the efforts your putting into your foodservice programs for students. Like packing a bag for a trip, back-to-school has its own check lists. Here are JoAnne’s top ten must-haves for a successful inservice.

  1. Start where you are.
    But, where ARE you? Where is your staff? What do they know? And what knowledge gaps do you need to close? Some assessment might be on the planning menu in order to figure this out. Start now, months ahead of time by asking managers to identify areas that they keep having to revisit with staff. Don’t point fingers—just make a list. Make sure that this is apositive discussion with managers, focusing on improvement rather than chastisement. Even if some of these areas have been gone over with staff repeatedly, recognize that there is a marked difference between telling and training. Sometimes the lessons just don’t “stick,” or we revert to the way things used to be.

  2. Determine your objective.
    If your objective is to fill 6 hours with some creditable inservice (CPEUs), then refer back to #1 and start where you are. Where would you would like to see improvement? All staffs struggle with the same topics from time to time– recognizing a reimbursable meal, working together as a team, conflict resolution, food safety basics, “should this be 4 oz. or a half a cup?”, and customer service.

  3. Brainstorm.
    After you have a list of knowledge gaps, or areas where there is a shortfall between expectations and results, get your team together to think out loud! If you are a bigger school, this team may meet in the district office. If you are a smaller school, this team will be comprised of managers.
    After your initial meeting, invite someone from the central office who can be trusted with your concerns about helping staff grow, and who also might have more experience in putting a training day together.
    I don’t recommend they attend the first meeting with the managers. I have seen staff withdraw from the brainstorming because they aren’t comfortable with the guest at the meeting and they fear saying something foolish.
    When you brainstorm, however, you actually want a little foolish atmosphere mixed in. That is often where the most exciting ideas come from!

  4. Budget some money.
    Spend it on themed decorations or prizes, but put your money where you are putting your time (and your staff’s time). Think about this – you are paying the hourly wages of all the staff to attend. Spend a little more and put value into the time you have all of them together.

  5. This year, start with nothing.
    Try imagining yourself back at the point before particular decisions were made, free to make those decisions with the knowledge that you have now about their outcome. The purpose being to avoid repeating past mistakes and to encourage actions that have worked out favorably. With that in mind, try this radical, uncomfortable thought: do not get out last year’s agenda and do the same thing again. It’s difficult; but have no template in mind. Instead, think of what YOU would want to do for these 6 hours if you were on the receiving, instead of the planning, end of an all-day meeting. It will not be sit in one chair and listen to one person. Determine how to craft a day that looks nothing like the last in-service day. Can you change the venue? Can you find an activity for your staff that brings smiles and new acquaintances?

  6. Mix it up!
    Variety, they say, is the spice of life. Find a video clip that educates or inspires. Add in a brain break that incorporates some movement. Plan breaks frequently, especially one early, after morning coffee. Do you know the average attention span is under 30 seconds? I would tell you I read it is really 8 seconds – but then who would finish reading this? It’s crazy, but think about how fast you change channels or click to another website – we all find it hard to concentrate on one thing for very long.

  7. Find a hands-on activity.
    Insert one or two hands-on activities somewhere in the agenda. Have an icebreaker; design or draw something; have groups make lists; give them common food service items, some tape and paperclips and challenge them to construct a project. Giant sheets or rolls of paper with markers are just as much fun now as they were in kindergarten! Invite your “students” to get out of their seats for these projects.

  8. Prepare a fun agenda.
    Make you agenda look like an invitation or a poster for an event. Print with color or outsource to your school print shop. It should not look like every other memo you send. Find a way to build excitement about the “event”. Arouse curiosity! Even though the theme may be fun and the agenda was developed with staff input, your vote for what is important (and needed in the district you are responsible for) counts more than anything; it is perfect when the fun and the education align. Taking the time to plan months in advance helps facilitate this magic!

  9. Execute with enthusiasm.
    If you are not excited, no one else is going to be. If there is a theme, you personally should have props, or a hat, or a costume, that shows you are all-in for this party. Be bold! Be memorable!  Be loud! If you need a microphone, use one. Nothing loses a crowd faster than not being able to hear.

  10. Ask for feedback.
    It could be an evaluation form or an email asking about the training. Take the feedback seriously but, again, do not take it personally! This year’s feedback helps you start the whole 10 step process for next year! That is how each year is better than the one before!

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