Ah, meetings. Some people love them, some people hate them. Whether YOU like them or not… doesn’t really matter at all. In this article, you’re going to find out why some of your lovely teachers think meetings suck, and why you should think they suck too.
(disclaimer: teachers don’t actually think meetings ‘suck’, rather they can be ineffective)
By Esther Ben Ami
When I asked Paul why he hated meetings, he told me something that would spark an entire conversation about intent vs. impact, “Meetings tend to lead to good discussions, but it’s not so often that good discussions lead to tangible changes, whether it’s in new policy, or in [a] new structure for assignments, or in a new teaching strategy, or in something that’s actually useful.”
He explained to me how the teacher meetings at Harvest are “routine gatherings”, and because of this, their objective or goal isn’t always crystal clear.
He’d much rather have meetings that happen every two weeks as opposed to every week, and make it clear that every meeting pushes student learning somehow.
“If it’s a regular meeting, there’s going to be an hour of something happening during that time no matter what.”
And while accounts of the current events will easily fill that space, as Paul puts it, very rarely will the meetings trigger a significant change in the classroom the next day.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about thinking,” he says.
Meetings, that are, solely, for the sake of having a scheduled meeting, is Paul’s own experience with meetings in general, and not just at Harvest. When he worked in advertising he had a lot of routine meetings. Maybe they’d happen every Friday morning with the mundane goal of, “getting on the same page,” with no type of reflection or revision of their work. And then, occasionally, he’d attend the occasional meeting that was actually useful. He says it’s particularly worse in a school setting because, “We as teachers spend a lot of the time thinking about your [the students] thinking, and then thinking about our own thinking about your thinking.”
And when meetings continue to increase in their abstraction, the chances of any sort of direct reflection, of any sort of explicit action plan for a class, is close to none.
“The thing that happens tomorrow is much more important to you [the student]. Who I am as an educator in five to ten years is meaningless to you guys.”
Meetings also don’t always benefit every teacher on an equal scale, in Paul’s perspective. There might be, “a sudden philosophical shift, that maybe has a 1 or 2% reflection [of] my stance as a teacher… For some people it’s a 5% chance, for other people it’s a -3% chance.”
When you consider that meetings can only affect a small percentage of people a small percentage of the time, meetings seem kind of stupid now, don’t they?
But as stupid as they may be, there are ways to make meetings more productive. Upper House Science teacher Ashraya Gupta has sat in both productive meetings and not-so-productive meetings.
She explained that when you’re in a room with interesting, engaging individuals, the conversation can easily stray. As long as everyone stays on topic, there should be no issue.
“Meetings need a specific agenda in order to work.”
The solution should be simple. Afterall, how hard can it be to remember to make a plan? While the answer is straightforward in theory, including a group of people into the equation makes circumstances rather complicated, as we are complex creatures. Take this hypothetical situation: if you were to gather the teaching staff at Harvest Collegiate high school in a room to talk about how to make classes more engaging to students, potential agendas would have to be specific to individual departments. And even then, complications would emerge as a result of the fact that teachers in the same department teach different classes, all of which have their own unique set of needs.
Is there really a way we can make meetings more effective? Can they work, or do they suck? It’s my opinion that every institution, company or anything that involves a group of people working together to reach a common goal, meetings here and there are absolutely necessary. The thing is, while Harvest seems to have this culture of meetings, we’ll always have those meetings that aren’t really worth everyone’s time.
So, our hearts here at publishing club go out to you, Paul, as you sit through another sucky meeting.
Esther Ben Ami, the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvest Tribune, doesn’t really go to meetings often.