the meeting

The Meeting: How to End It

“This shouldn’t take too long.” Perhaps the most foreboding words ever uttered at the beginning of a school meeting.

Everybody knows it’s not true. Calling it a lie seems harsh as if the meeting leader (henceforth referred to as Satan) gets paid by the syllable and second.

I’m just kidding…about the Satan part.

However, every single meeting ever held has lasted longer than it needed to. Part of the blame goes on the meeting leader and the rest on the attendees.

In the spirit of my criticism, I will keep this short (however, at least 300 words because that’s how long it needs to be for Google to even recognize it).

Is a Meeting Necessary?

Short answer: no, it’s not. 99.2% of all information I’ve ever received at a meeting could have easily been disseminated by email. And do you know what we teachers could have been doing instead? Any of the countless accountability tasks flowing like grape-flavored motor oil from your state and national capitols.

This inflo should help:

Are you mostly sure the meeting info could be explained by email? Then email.

Are you kinda sure the meeting info could be explained by email? Then email.

Are you sorta sure the info could be explained by email? Then email.

Are you pretty sure the info could not be explained by email? Then email.

Are you confident the info could not be explained by email? Still, email.

Do You Need to Speak at the Meeting?

The above section should send meetings into extinction faster than Netflix did in Blockbuster. However, if you find yourself sitting in a brontosaurus of a get-together, don’t say anything.

You think you have a question, but you don’t.

“There are no stupid questions. If you have the question, others in here probably do as well, so ask.” You know you’ve said that, teachers. I have.

And it’s stupid. Don’t ask. Email. You know why? Because after facilitator answers the question, meeting attendees will ask, “Can you just email that?”

Yes. Yes, they can.

Here’s some more help for you:

If you’re only going to query to point out your self-proclaimed pedagogical genius, don’t.

If you’re only going to query to grind the same ax for the 300th time, don’t.

If you’re only going to query to point out how great your kid is, or your kid’s school is, don’t.

Seriously, nobody cares. And we all have way too much to do…especially the first few days before the kids arrive.

Meeting to Build Community

“But what about building community by getting us all together?” an administrator may ask.

Meetings build resentment. If your administrators want to build community, tell them to get the staff pizza for lunch some random Friday, or let the staff dress down more often. 

The most important commodity is time. Plain and simple.

Your Turn!

Mr. Middlesworth wants to hear from you. Please let us know what you think down below. And why don’t you share this with one of your teacher friends?

I’m just a regular old teacher. No cape, no eye patch. I have no synonyms for innovation but I do want to do my job as best as I can.

3 Simple Ways to Force Student Ownership

I love yogurt. Especially the varieties that have a lid full of stuff to dump in and mix around. The healthy crunch that almonds or granola or M&Ms provide…so good.

Recently, I was shopping for said yogurts as the clerk was restocking the very same yogurts. I thought he would yield to me as we reached simultaneously, and he did, but not without releasing a nose full of annoyed and affronted air.

As I filled my arms, I thought of tons of stuff I wouldn’t end up saying, which included, “I’m sorry that my shopping is getting in the way of your shelving, but did you realize you wouldn’t have anything to shelve without customers?”

In other words, grocery store workers are there for the shoppers, not the other way around.

Funny, but a lot of teachers have this confused as well. I know I used to be. 

Many teachers don’t understand why students don’t take ownership of their learning or their education. Perhaps it’s because teachers act as if students have to earn the knowledge educators are charged with placing on the low shelves for their children.

Or maybe it’s because many teachers spend so much time creating boundaries and erecting walls with rules that, in many cases, require students to bow at their feet simply to enter the classroom.

Hate to tell you, teachers (no I don’t, I love it), but students aren’t here for us, we’re here for them. If it weren’t for the children, we would be out of a job.

At long last, here are three ways to force students to take ownership of their education:

 

1. Call It “Our Room,” Not “My Room.”

And beyond that, treat it as though it is your student’s room as much as yours. Because it is. (And, by the way, if another teacher uses your room at some point during the day, it’s their room as well. Make shelf space, desk space, and do whatever else you can to make them comfortable. I mean, c’mon, get over yourself. It’s not YOUR room).

This doesn’t mean that students gain access to your personal belongings, your desk, or even your supplies. They can respect your things and space.

But you must do the same. Don’t go digging through your students’ stuff without their permission. Ask politely if they mind if you move their books to the counter to make more room.

Once they feel like the classroom is as much theirs as it is yours, they will treat it as such and take ownership of its care.

 

2. Respect Their Physical Needs

Look folks, if a kid asks to go to the bathroom, let them go. Do you really want to say to a parent, “I know Richard will be made fun of for the rest of his life for pooping his pants in my class, but we were about to go over the homework”? Err on the side of humane, teachers. Please.

Now, if they are going to miss something fun or something that you think the student will really be upset about missing, it’s certainly appropriate to ask them if they could wait a couple minutes because “you’re going to want to see this.” But the fact that you “started the lesson” is no reason to cause your students physical discomfort.

(Chew on this:  if you think all those kids who are “going to the bathroom” are really just taking a walk, you’re probably right. But what does that say about what’s going on in your classroom?)

Additionally, let them get up to sharpen their pencil or grab a tissue without asking. This doesn’t mean they can terrorize everybody between the trash can and their seat, but sometimes a little stroll across the room is just what the doctor ordered.

Some students like to stand at their desk instead of sit. Why not let them? As long as they aren’t bothering other students, what’s the issue?

Trust me, it doesn’t bother you. You’re an adult, remember? You can handle it. And giving your students ownership of their bodies will encourage them to take ownership in other areas.

 

Please share this article with a teacher colleague or a parent friend of yours. Or ten.

 

3. Don’t Play the Adult Card

I drink coffee in class all the time. All day. All year. Students would always say, “Why can’t we have drinks in class?” and I would respond “become a teacher someday and you can have a latte in your classroom.”

That’s what I was referring to in the last paragraph of the previous section. Often times, we play the adult card when we teachers have something to gain.

I snack throughout the day as well because I get hungry. I’m a grown man. These kids get hungry as well. They’re children.

I know this is all subject to school rules, but why not allow your students some of the same creature comforts you desire for yourself?

Again, students should clean up after themselves, and they don’t need a dozen donuts. We should encourage them to make good choices. And if they already have a sense of ownership in the classroom, your students just might lead the charge on classroom sanitation for you.

Some Final Thoughts

There are always growing pains when encouraging your students to take ownership of their classroom environment. If they are not used to some of the freedom you are offering, they will try to take advantage of it. It’s inevitable. Don’t let this be an excuse to drop the iron fist on them. Revel in the notion that you are doing the right thing, teaching kids with respect, and encouraging them to take ownership of their lives and their education.

What Do You Think?

Do you agree? Disagree? Do you allow and encourage students to take ownership of their education and their school day? Or do you think this is a terrible idea? Mr. Middlesworth wants to hear from you! Sound off below!!

Further Reading on Ownership

Here’s an article by the fantastic Ira Socol about the user experience (UX) of children in the school setting. Must read.

 

I’m just a regular old teacher. No cape, no eye patch. I have no synonyms for innovation but I do want to do my job as best as I can.

Children Today, Am I Right?

Children today don’t know how to communicate face-to-face. They never read. All you ever see is the tops of their heads. Thumbs gliding across phone screens.

Add to the list. You know you want to.

Sprinkle on some “when I was in school” for good measure.

Teaching like a teacher means not imbibing on this faculty-room toxic brew. All of the above comments —and anything you might have added in— are code for “I just want more control of my students so they’ll sit there, smile, shut up and listen.”

Here’s a fact: when you were in school, your teachers said the same things about you “children today.” Replace text messages or snapchats with notes written on paper, and i’s dotted with little hearts.

Another fact: when these children today become adults, they’ll also complain about children today. And so on, and so on…

Something else I remind myself of from time to time…Children haven’t changed over time. That is, the kids who will sit in front of me in a couple of weeks are not the same human beings who sat there 20 years ago. While this is a “no duh” kind of comment, it’s important to recognize this.

When children today walk into a classroom, they’re not thinking, “Nobody had cell phones 25 years ago, but I’m going to snap my friends in class today because I’m not well-behaved like those students of yesteryear.” No, they are just living life as they have always known it. Living in the world that adults today have presented to them.

Chew on that for a minute.

Then wash it down with this: By the very nature of their use of screens, children today read and write more than we ever did. Way more.

Further, I don’t understand the attack on their critical thinking skills, especially with regards to their access to technology. Don’t confuse memorizing stuff with critical thinking. Critical thinking is ripping apart an idea, topic or notion and forming a judgment. Think of all the information that is available to children today at the swipe of a finger. They rip stuff apart with their BFFs and debate constantly. It just happens to be about mascara instead of mitochondria.

So, dear reader, teach like a teacher this year by empathizing with your students in all ways, but specific to this article, by understanding that their world doesn’t seep into their brains through boxy televisions or landline telephones. Instead, it flashes in through HD screens that fit in the palms of their hands.

And, fitting neatly with the previous Teach Like a Teacher article, how will you both create a classroom environment that allows children today to feel comfortable by focusing on their strengths and interests and prepares them to succeed in a world that looks less and less like it did when we were kids?

 

I’m just a regular old teacher. No cape, no eye patch. I have no synonyms for innovation but I do want to do my job as best as I can.