For many, it is clearly a means of asserting control and keeping staff accountable.
Too many principals treat their teachers like glorified students rather than fellow professionals.
The way some principals address their staff at these meetings, even though supposedly tongue-in-cheek, is a dead giveaway. If you close your eyes you could easily imagine a teacher dressing down his naughty students.
The most valuable resource a teacher has is time. How frustrating it is to be sitting in a meeting and not only being bored stiff but so frustrated that there are so many tasks that you should be tackling but can’t.
Some school leaders are the epitome of how not to communicate. It would be taboo to subject students to a lecture for an hour and half, even if complemented by a multi-layered PowerPoint with the odd slightly-amusing cartoon.
The most effective learning occurs when there is active involvement by the listener. Being talked at when tired and frazzled after a full day teaching is hardly the recipe or environment for effective communication.
In one school I endured years of staff meetings and only two actually invited genuine discussion and feedback from staff.
This less-than-clever ploy was premised on the assumption that by never giving staff a forum for dissent, there would be no dissent.
Instead staff were talked at and meetings were really briefings. The concept of a ‘meeting’ implies two-way communication: listening and speaking.
I lost count of the number of meetings where a well-worded memo would have sufficed.
I attended some meetings where we were told there was not much on the agenda but because it was scheduled it should go ahead.
One school I taught at clearly measured ‘busy-ness’ by the number of scheduled meetings, in some cases, one every day.
The irony is that the frazzled teacher becomes cynical and unproductive. There are only a finite number of minutes in every day.
I could either prepare a great lesson for that challenging class tomorrow afternoon or suffer the exasperation of another unnecessary staff meeting which will invariably run over time.
This culture of meeting-madness invites role playing and understandable passive resistance.
If you can plan ahead, you can send your apologies with any number of believable excuses.
I knew one colleague who avoided a whole semester of weekly staff meetings by inventing a whole array of original and credible excuses.
His school leaders were too busy organising the next meeting to notice his absenteeism!
Others, who usually gravitate to the back stalls, are able to correct work, check email and even catch up on some sleep while somehow convincing the presenter that they are listening.
Some teachers are mortified if they attend a staff meeting and not ask a question or make some pointed comment which will result in the meeting going overtime discussing what was essentially a private grievance.
For others, meetings are a chance for one-upmanship and the opportunity to impress one’s employer in order to smooch one’s way to an eventual promotion.
Supporting an unpopular decision by the administration is a clever way to accumulate brownie points.
Others like to demonstrate their smarmy superiority. When a number of teachers complain of the feral behaviour of the Year 9s, this operator will comment how delightful they are and that she has no trouble teaching them.
In many ways the digital age is the communication age. And yet some schools are ossified and handicapped by the procedures and protocols of yesteryear.
School leaders who schedule a multitude of meaningless meetings are insulting the intelligence of their teachers who presumably can read briefing notes.
Unless the meeting is a genuine invitation to share ideas and feedback, with the school leader doing more listening than speaking, the meeting is probably a tedious waste of everybody’s time.