3 signs your meeting could have been an email

Meetings aren’t many teachers’ favourite part of the job and unnecessary ones are even worse. Here’s how to spot an extraneous appointment

Laura May Rowlands

video interview

In a job as full-on and demanding as teaching, there’s little worse than being summoned to a gathering that could – and should – have been an email.

Here are the telltale signs that this meeting may be a waste of your precious tome:

1. There’s a prepared presentation or spreadsheet that needs updating

Updating information during a discussion is a poor use of time, not to mention very confusing for the poor scribe who has to simultaneously listen, type and not become transfixed, Narcissus-style, by their own image in the call window (don’t lie, we all do it).

It is far better to send out the information prior to the online meeting. That way, your staff have time to update, make notes and clarify points. Then, when you come together, each person knows what the score is and you can concentrate on actions. Meetings are, by definition, meant to be interactive.

2. Not everyone is contributing

Naturally, there is usually one person “running” the meeting but if this is generally just disseminating information, it isn’t a meeting, it’s a presentation.

Could this have been pre-recorded and sent for people to watch so that they can arrive, when you do meet, with pertinent questions or comments? This is something I plan to trial with my own department in the coming week as we move our subject development continuing professional development forward.

I am hoping everyone can take their own time to watch and listen to information, and allow it to percolate, ready for discussion, when we all meet together and, more importantly, contribute – with an added benefit of cutting down on time, too.

3. No clear outcome

At the end of the meeting, if people aren’t leaving it clear on the actions they need to take – whether it be checking in with parents, planning a session or any other follow-up work – then it was a big waste of everyone’s time.

If you have no idea what to do next and have to either surreptitiously text your work pals or wait for the minutes to come out so you can scour the page for your initials, then the whole thing probably could have been an email.

The worst meetings are when you read the minutes and see you’re not even required to do anything. It’s just been a huge waste of your time.

And that’s what this all comes down to really: time. It is the one thing we could all do more of. So next time you find yourself scheduling that meeting ask: could this be done in an email?

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Laura May Rowlands

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