Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Call Meetings to Order

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Call Meetings to Order

Article excerpt

Does your school still hold staff meetings? I haven't worked anywhere that does for years.

When I began teaching, in the days of black-and-white television and T-rexes, the brave, seemingly adamantine headteacher would hold whole-staff meetings. They were bawdy, anxious events, reminiscent of pressure cookers or cracks in the Earth's mantle. Venerable veterans would roar like the last dinosaurs at every assault on their thrones. "What, grading lessons? Revolting!" said one stalwart as he punctuated his distress with a walk-out. Walk-outs were the best bit of staff meetings. No one would know where to look, until a quavering deputy headteacher finally said, "Well, moving on to item 2..." as if someone had just farted.

I don't know many headteachers who still have those kind of staff gatherings, which doubled up as cage fights and tripled up as impromptu union meetings. Most staff meetings these days are as stage-managed as a North Korean surprise party for the Dear Leader. Agenda items must be submitted in advance - which of course no one ever does - and a checklist of nutritious, if flavourless, points to cover drawn up. PowerPoint, not religion, is the opiate of these masses, although it's rare that an anaesthetic produces such torpor without actually relieving any pain.

This is all perfectly understandable. What school leader wants to run the gauntlet of discontent? One meeting I attended lasted 90 minutes because a grandee refused to concede the floor, sacrificing a good hour of our lives to the proposition that the lunch bell should be rung one, not two, minutes before the end of break. …

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