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Travis Wittwer | Education Policy, Life in the Classroom | October 5, 2012

The Meetings


Picture 2By Travis Wittwer

In keeping with October's theme of Invisibles, I share with you ... The Meetings, but first, a brief definition. "Invisibles" is a general term for all of the unseen things that teachers do to keep the education machine running. The goal of October is to bring a few of these Invisibles to light so that people outside of the school setting have a clear idea of what it is like inside the school. 

So on to The Meetings as my teaching partner and I have been all week. It started on Monday .... 

and has not stopped yet. Endless meetings. Note: I am not complaining about all meetings. I expect a certain number of meetings to talk with parents or work with students. What I do not expect are day-after-day meetings that take me away from planning and preparing that would benefit students.

I suspect that parents or policy makers would not like the idea of their teachers being pulled away in this manner.   

I teach several periods with a teaching partner this year; I am quite fortunate, mainstreaming a variety of SPED levels into the general education English class. It is wonderful. Students are doing great and working with another professional is rejuevenating. However, my partner and I have not met once this week. We have not been able to meet before school, during prep, after school, or even at lunch. 

We are unable to meet because of an array of meetings. Minutia meetings. How can we get together to plan the lessons and discuss student learning in order to impact students? We cannot. I suppose we could meet on the weekend (we did that before and I think my next post will be The Weekend). 

Everyone in education should be there to impact the lives of students.

I am going to close with a plea, a plea to people who do not work in a school--be it parents, community members, or those involved in governing education policy--please be aware that there is a great deal that goes on in a school which is invisible to you. Teachers have graciously taken on these Invisibles for several decades, but at some point, it will be too much, and, sadly, the students will suffer.




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Hey, you all are making fun of ladder safety? I have to admit, I am the Chemical Hygiene Officer at my school. One of the things I do is either arrange for or provide a safety training for science teachers once a year. I try to keep it short and relevant! Also, you made me think about a possible post related to this.

Completely serious. Sigh.


Dr. Pezz, you're kidding! That's so totally insulting. I'm even insulted as a taxpayer - all that per diem going for such ridiculous things. I'm laughing so hard right now.

Hand washing? Ladder safety? I may never complain again. That is so funny.

I went to a meeting today for--wait for it--hand washing and its importance. Ugh. Ridiculous.

We had one previously on ladder safety. It sounds like a joke, but it's real.

Kristin ... nutshell summary. Perfect. I am going to print this and put it next to my computer. I may not be able to enforce it throughout a school, but it will be a guiding principle of meeting worth.


I hate most meetings. Meetings should be held only if five or more people need to collaborate - to create something.

Broadcast announcements ("upcoming events" - "nuts and bolts" - "MSP/HSPE training") should happen through email.

Lectures or presentations, like a powerpoint on literacy across content areas, should happen through email.

It's important for educators to be able to see each other, and to be able to connect and collaborate, but responding to and creating work for students is so time-intensive that meetings should be held only when face-to-face is an absolute necessity.

Tom, I am taking a SIOP training next week. This is something for which I have signed up as the process interests me. I consider this a workshop, or training, and I have chosen it. I will be out of the classroom for two days. Luckily, I have a co-teacher, wonderful, for 3 of my 5 periods.

The piece that really gets me are meetings that I would classify as MINUTIA. I have consciously left examples out of the post as I did not want to (a) offend anyone, and (b) start a thread of comments on the relative merit of a meeting type. However, I will give one example of a meeting that is minutia (just for fun!): meetings to talk about supplies and how much each teacher gets and what the process is for obtaining supplies.

These are things that can be done in an email and will save me from the 10 follow up questions needed to explain where to get white board pens reimbursed.

Too snarky? I hope not.

Five times? Yikes! My pet peeve right now is trainings that take me out of my classroom. No matter how valuable or useless they are, it's hard to justify being away from my students and leaving them with a sub.

Tom, agreed. Those meetings that you would classify as useful, are not the meetings I am talking about. I am talking about those other "meetings." If you have somehow managed to reduce or remove those meetings from your school day, my hat is off to you-your school-and-your district.

Caveat: for me, even some of those meetings you would classify as useful, refresher meetings and the ilk, are ones that I would classify as time wasters. If I need it, I will take it. Requiring me to take it does not treat me like a professional, nor does it help the students. I have taken Intro to 6-Traits training no fewer than 5 times. Honest. And honestly.

I guess it depends on the meetings. If they can be eliminated, but haven't, then why not?

Most of the meetings in which I end up have some value, even if they don't directly impact learning. I'm thinking of stuff like CPS refresher meetings, Child Study meetings, etc.

A world without meetings would be nice, but I don't see it happening.

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