Meetings with remarkable pointlessness

9th March 2007 at 00:00
Graham Lawler taught for 23 years. He is now an author and teaches online

He looked at me perplexed. "What exactly do you mean?" he asked.

I was talking to an assistant head and I thought I had asked a simple question. "Well, we had a staff meeting last night, what was it for?" I repeated.

This is when Ken, not his real name, really started to stumble and put the ball back in my court.

"As an educator, surely you should know," he said curtly.

I stood my ground. I wanted to determine how much he knew himself. Ken picked up my cue and started rambling.

"Well, it is so we can give you information," he finally answered.

"On what exactly?" I came back.

"Well, where the school is going."

(Now he looked genuinely pleased that he had given a good, professional answer.) "So why do we have to have a meeting?" I said, firmly on my soapbox.

"To tell you of course," he answered.

"But Ken," I said, "I learnt to read more than 40 years ago. Why don't you just write it down, and give it to me on paper?"

Before he could say any more I could sense I was in for the "kill" and I was not going to let him off the hook.

"You had 100 teaching staff and around 40 support staff at that meeting last night, and all you did was talk at them. Each member of the leadership team gave a presentation of what they were doing to 140 people."

"Yes," Ken admitted, adding: "It was important work, in fact it is vital."

Now I went for the jugular. "You had around 140 professional men and women in the room last night and all you did was lecture them on the so-called important work that you are doing."

He winced. I went on with my tirade. "Not once did you ask any of them for an opinion, or give them a chance to speak, for one hour solid. This was a real opportunity for dialogue, to engage with staff on important issues, and you didn't do it."

"Thanks Graham, I must go," he said, before wondering off, leaving me lamenting my lost words and waste of time.

But to my amazement, at the next staff meeting, the head said: "We want to change things today, we really want your opinion on things."

It is possible to make a real difference after all.

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