I know that we are long past the moment for writing down New Year's Resolutions, but if I may, I'd like to offer one that many educators should have written down for this year: stop having long-winded, non-productive meetings. Long-winded, non-productive meetings are a cancer that is destroying many educators ability to get real work done.
Now I understand the importance of having meetings. Meetings conducted throughout the week amongst folks school-wide, district-wide and state-wide do have some value; ideas and information is exchanged amongst interested and concerned parties in an effort to help kids learn. I am all for that, but in the words of Peter Griffin, "what really grinds my gears" are long, drawn out meetings that do nothing of what they are designed to do. Which basically only accomplish taking me away from my desk when I could have been preparing for a class or counseling a student?
I sit in these meetings, you sit in these meetings and you know how they go; you receive an agenda but no one ever stays on the agenda, individuals talk all over the place and nothing meaningful takes place. It's a waste of time, energy and human resources.
So why do such meetings take place? They take place because educators are trying to cook up new schemes and strategies to: prevent student dropouts, tutoring failing students and prepare students for standardized tests amongst several other goals. Nothing is wrong with meeting to discuss reaching those aims, yet my problem is when we continue to have such meetings and nothing comes of them; either we recycle the same ideas or we reinvent ways to remain stagnant with regards to our achievement and growth.
Some of the meetings turn into blaming sessions; rather than bringing like-minded individuals together to discuss possible solutions to a problem, folks begin blaming one another and throwing individuals under the bus to "save" themselves from ridicule. Some meetings are hijacked by those who feel that they are "entitled" to be listened to regardless of how dumb they sound or how irrational their ideas are because of their seniority, educational background or longevity. Situations like these that occur during meetings, which are otherwise intended to be productive strategy sessions, do nothing but waste time, make matters worse and are otherwise a pain in the ass.
My message is simple, if we cannot have productive meetings; meetings with a cause and not a pause, then we need to cut down the meetings -- so that I and other educators can get back to completing and filing all the piles of unnecessary paperwork mandated by school districts and legislation; both State and Federal. All of that paperwork is another conversation, but I digress.
Contrary to what some people think, educators do have real work to do. It consists of teaching, mentoring, monitoring and counseling students both inside and outside the classroom. Our work consists of mentoring and developing fellow teachers. Our work consists of writing and enhancing curriculum, improving teacher instruction, and the way we assess teaching and learning. We can meet and discuss these things in an orderly, structured and focused manner that accomplishes the goal of achieving desired results and growing as a group and/or organization. However, if we must have long drawn-out meetings that do nothing except ultimately waste time and annoy those of us that have more important things to do, I ask that you send me to cafeteria monitor duty in exile.