January 15, 2019
Wikipedia says that a meeting is a gathering of two or more people that has been convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal through verbal interaction, such as sharing information or reaching agreement. As a literacy specialist or an educator or an actual human, I go to a LOT of meetings. Meetings that have varying attendees, varying purposes, and a wide variety of outcomes, some successful. Other than the amazing time I have conferring with students, reading aloud, and facilitating minilessons, it’s the most frequent activity of my day.
I start most days with a quick meeting with my dog. Seriously, we have a common goal, we share information, while you might not speak her language, I do. She always speaks mine. We affirm our friendship, we greet the day. I highly recommend it as your first meeting of the day.
Most school days, I begin with a 7:30 collaboration meeting with a classroom teacher. These are half an hour meeting structured by the teacher. Usually we speak about curriculum plans, challenges, assessments, and individual student needs. I take notes and sometimes follow up with a book or a resource. They are a varied as the participants. Some have ideas that the want to discuss in a neat list in their own notebooks. Some wait for my inquiries and then are sparked into fascinating dialogues. Occasionally we dream about future plans. Sometimes we fret about past situations. Mostly we live in the present. If I had to give you one secret to my modest success, this is it. It’s not the cookies, though some have said otherwise. It’s not my hustle, though ask me to do something, it will be done quickly. It’s this small act of convening for a common goal with verbal interaction. A miracle, so easy to achieve.
A couple of mornings a week after this meeting, I meet with our child study team. The child study team themselves are my support system honed from problem solving over years, we know each other’s strengths and trust our process. A teacher is invited to present a student and we spend forty five minutes listening, brainstorming, and planning with that teacher. The model is an old one, but it works so well. The method is basically four steps, simple in its delivery. The person presents the problem. The team generates possibilities. The person evaluates those possibilities. A plan is formulated. The secret sauce so to speak is that we ask clarifying questions, the teacher listens and doesn’t contribute to the idea generation. The teacher responds to what was said that is new to the situation. Following the meeting, one of the team members follows up with the teacher to formulate goals, provide support, or whatever is needed.
I also have a great many meeting that I attend that have many participants and difficult agendas. They relate to assessment, curriculum, and generally supporting a school community and a larger district community in literacy. While necessary, the sheer scope of the work and the number of voices can make this much less simple that those collaborative meetings over coffee.
I wonder if viewing these meetings with so many people and such a complicated agenda more like those intimate, personal meetings would change my perspective. Such begins my year of reflection.