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?
Wisdom. Being wise. Knowing what to do and doing it. Ultimately, that’s what we want our students to do. That’s what we want our students to be more like.
There is a great book I bought written by Dean Cunningham titled Pure Wisdom. Time Space Education heavily centers itself around simplicity. Keeping things simple as a way to get to what is important. Contained in this book are three parts:
1. Right Attitude
2. Right Practice
3. Right Understanding
Each chapter is only 2-3 pages long and has so much meaning. The insights in this book gives clarity and understanding by looking at how to think, act and be. It is a book with great power.
If you have been following our blog for a while, you will be familiar with Round Table Discussions. I have started this up again with real success. It is best used by observing how the kids are behaving and what they are up to in their learning. From there, I select a chapter that will help lift, expand and transform their learning.
We have a real problem in our class – consistency! We need to take the time to develop habits and routines, so that our commitments become a way of life. The conversations and the connections that they made to each other and themselves was truly special. The language they are using and the things they are doing has shown a clear change in who they are as people. Yes, it has helped them with their learning, but there is even more value as it has helped them organize their lives more effectively.
I would encourage any teacher to do something like this with their kids. This is the stuff they remember and more importantly connect with on a deep level.
Last week was all about commitment. This week it is all about stretching. Exactly what they need to work on. “When we’re comfortable we become stiff. We resist change. We learn nothing new, and we don’t grow. Dean Cunningham – Pure Wisdom
Something exciting happened this week. James Forsythe, from Phuket International Academy, has been reading the 6SS Class Blog. He noticed some similarities between what our 6SS have been thinking about and what his Grade 3/Year4 class have been thinking about. Both classes have been looking at wisdom and trying to understand what it means. He showed this posting from the 6SS blog to his students and used the 6SS students thinking to take his students’ conversations further:
Read the comments to see how the students’ thinking develops and to see where James adds his students’ thinking to the conversation.
James then sent through some photos to show the process he took his students through to arrive at their interpretations of what wisdom is.
This kind of cross-pollination of thinking using a blog doesn’t happen that often, but it’s great when it does. Has it happened to you? I am always happy to help people work on their blogs to make them work better as learning tools.