Do you really need to be at that meeting?

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Meetings are a big part of what teachers do. We have all sorts of different meetings which serve different purposes and for different reasons. Every school I have worked at meetings are a point of contention. No one really likes to meet, let’s face it. We would all rather get on with it. Yet, we also understand that meetings are very important as it paves the way for being as purposeful and meaningful as possible in the way we teach and the way students learn.

A normal week for me equates to around 6 hours of meetings. That is an awful lot of time. And this doesn’t include the time I spend on preparing before and the follow-up after a meeting. I am sure this is very similar for most people in a school.

This is a typical week of meetings for me…..

Monday: 2 periods numeracy planning meeting (every two weeks)

Tuesday: 1 hour (whole/primary school) meeting

Wednesday: No meetings

Thursday: 1 hour primary school meeting, 2 periods UOI/literacy planning meeting

Friday: 1 hour Grade level leaders meeting

Without opening Pandora’s box about meetings, I would like us to think a bit more about ‘who’ attends a meeting and why are they needed in the first place.

Sam always talks about the fact if people leave without a ‘job’ to do from a meeting, then they should not even be there. I wholeheartedly agree with him. This doesn’t mean a meeting is designed to load up our ‘to do’ list, it just means that a good meeting will have clear action items to move planning from discussion to tangible action. This will drive the meeting forward till the next time you meet again.

Support teachers are very important complimentary pieces to support teachers and students alike. They have been hired for their unique skills and knowledge in their specialized area. They are teachers too, just like homeroom teachers. Yes, their role is vastly different, but they contribute in ways homeroom teachers can’t. As a school we have worked very hard on pulling them into the learning and benefit students in whatever way they need.

We had a Grade 5 meeting on Thursday and had a language-integration teacher, gifted and talented teacher and an IT integration teacher. It is great to have extra voices, ideas and perspectives planning together, but only when these teachers are naturally integrating with the learning and pushing-in. It is a welcome sign that these teachers want to know what is happening in the classroom. But, if they are not integrating or on the agenda, then they don’t need to be at the meeting. As a grade 5 team, we have realized that we achieve so much more, when the conversations are focused and pointed. Too many people in the room can sometimes get in the way, as most people feel the need to talk. And as teachers, we all like being heard. Right?

So my question is, “How can you tell support teachers, that they are are not needed at a meeting without making them feel unwanted or not valued?”

There seems to always be a huge chasm between homeroom and support teachers in terms of validating one’s position, role and how best to collaborate. The biggest thing here, is that no matter what position or role you have in a school, if you are not impacting student learning, then please understand that you may not be required at that particular meeting. Don’t see it as a bad thing, see it as an opportunity to use that time and put it into another area of the school that will benefit. And the best way to know what a grade or class is doing, is not through a meeting, but spending that meeting time in a classroom instead.

We all attend a lot of meetings and often over-meet in schools. Time is precious. Whether you are a support teacher, specialist, homeroom teacher, whatever, always ask yourself, ‘Am I really needed here?’ And if the answer is yes, then stay and contribute, if it is no, then leave. And know that it is ok. People will respect you for it. We all need to rise above this idea of, if I’m in a meeting I am being productive and useful. Why do we take things so personally? It’s a very sensitive topic of conversation.

Do you have the guts to challenge if people really need to be in a meeting and do they have the wisdom to acknowledge it themselves?

How do you manage this at your school?

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4 comments

  1. Liz Cho

    “Why do we take things so personally? It’s a very sensitive topic of conversation.” This is very true, but I agree that we need “the guts to challenge if people really need to be in a meeting” and to do so, have clear transparency and ways to empower people to “have the wisdom to acknowledge [their value] themselves” – so important.

  2. Leah Bortolin

    As a PYP Coordinator, I definitely agree that there are too many meetings in most schools. Sadly, I am a part of many of those meetings! If we have clear agendas for meetings, then most non-classroom teachers will see for themselves if they are needed at a particular meeting or not. Also, I think if clear minutes are taken and the non-essential people have access to those meetings it would alleviate some of the stress/concern about not being at a meeting. A lot of this is about setting school norms related to meetings and finding different ways to keep people in the loop.

  3. Dorinda Truscott

    I think a lot of people feel the need to feel important in schools and meetings are a way of validating some teachers roles hence they feel the need to “bring up points” or “say something”. To me, this shows a lack of confidence in their position. I do agree there are too many meetings and in most cases they become white noise. I also believe specialist teachers need opportunities to discuss points with homeroom teachers etc but this communication can be on a more ongoing basis rather than to “clog up” or make more meetings.
    Finding balance is difficult in every school…. I think meetings can be managed more including having a clear agenda, a time frame and set direction to ensure communication is effective and the time invested is used wisely to benefit the team and the students which is what we are all about and this is something that also gets lost along the way….

  4. Christopher Carlyle

    Short answer? No.
    There have been very few times in my life when my being at a meeting was vital or necessary. I find the majority of meetings serve as “information dumps” by administrative types or are of the “I-want-your-opinion-on-something-I-have-already-decided” sort.
    Collegial conversations, on the other hand, prove invaluable. No agenda. No “outcomes”. Simply a chance to clarify thoughts and actions with other teachers.

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