Monday, August 06, 2012

Yes, Virginia, There Are Good Meetings

I spent last weekend at SOS 2012, surrounded by people who are passionate about education, people who look beyond the headlines, people who do not take preposterous nonsense at face value. This ought to be status quo, but when you consider that even the New York Times runs editorials that don't consider, let alone bother themselves with fundamental research, it's far rarer than it should be.

When you're with a group of well-informed people seeking real solutions to real problems, real discussions ensue. You learn that democracy is not precisely getting to choose between Tweedledee and Tweedledum once every four years. You learn that there is a lot of give and take and coming to a consensus, you learn to listen, consider, compromise, and seek the best answer for the largest group of people. It's not precisely the narrow concept we still teach our children.

You also learn that the discussion does not entail how we can best enact the latest idiotic fancy of Bill Gates, recycled by our billionaire mayor. Somehow, when dozens of teachers are sitting around hearing the latest way to save their school from a groundless closing, it doesn't inspire the sort of spirit that enhances the esprit de corps.

I tend to dread meetings. Many revolve around the latest trendy silver bullet. This is the only way to do it, and the way we told you to do it last year is complete garbage. We all know that next year they'll tell us what they said this year was complete garbage, and that there will be yet another formula. Or perhaps they'll bring back something from five years ago and tell us no, it turns out it wasn't complete garbage after all.

Sometimes meetings are about how kids shouldn't be late. It's bad, and it's not good, and therefore we shouldn't tolerate it. Continue along those lines for forty minutes, and you have an idea of how tedious and mind-numbing this exercise can become.

It's not always the fault of administrators. They're contractually required to put on these meetings, whether or not they have anything to say. But here's the thing--if they are well-informed, smart and caring, they can actually do things of value, and help kids. Understandably, that's a high hurdle when they work for people imposing baseless nonsense on them, us, and the kids we're sworn to serve.
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