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Meaningful meetings

May 31, 2009

Hello again,

I have never met anyone who thinks meetings are useful. Everyone seems to think that they waste precious time that could be used better on other activities. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate. But generally ...

...people prefer fewer rather than more meetings. Why is this true in our field? Probably because meetings are administrative in nature or used to deliver diktats from above. But I have attended many meetings that teachers found useful. So what is the secret?

Firstly, we have to recognise that if people are going to give up their time, they want to deal with what matters to them. Secondly, many meetings become a routine procedure and take place whether they are needed or not. This means it is easy for people to resent having to waste their time.

But if we think of meetings as opportunities to share ideas, confide problems and brainstorm solutions, the dynamic changes. Have you considered calling a meeting for teachers to discuss activities that have really worked well for them in class? Sharing ideas, having ideas validated, seeing how ideas can be adapted – these are ways of empowering teachers in the classroom. So that’s a type of meeting that teachers find valuable.

Then there are meetings that look seriously at teachers’ concerns. Have they got discipline problems, issues with rapport, specific teaching areas they find difficult?
Using meetings to help teachers with tier difficulties is a truly helpful procedure.

And what about the school? Have you had meetings to identify what the school does well and others to pinpoint the areas for improvement? If not, why not? Teachers have their ears to the ground, they can spot the strengths and weaknesses far more accurately than marketers and managers.

Actually one of the best systems for initiating meetings is to let the staff call them as and when they are needed.

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  1. Gary Says:

    I enjoy all of your articles and I really appreciate you sharing all of your experiences. I teach business skills. First I must ask a question. Why do we all have lesson plans for our students, but we do not have meeting plans. A successful meeting would start by sending everyone the outline of the meeting and the time for each subject to be discussed. Therefore everyone will know what will be discussed and the time for that discussion. This will limit the time of the meeting. Why? Because most meeting are too long...

  1. Bob Toomey Says:

    Hi, Brenda,

    In real schools in the United States, most meetings are useful and worthwhile, and of course some are not. The best system I have seen was when principals write a daily or weekly bulletin and didn't call for meetings unless it was necessary. The entire staff love that process. As for ESL school, most teachers are not professional trained credentialled teachers, but rather TESL teachers. Most of them need a professional administator who speaks their language to help them and solve problems in the classroom or with materials. Seemingly, there are few lanugage school directors who fit that description. Most people will probably have to go to any meeting the administrator calls, whether it is important or not.

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