Dr. Nerd Mom and the Weekly Meetings

Its November and for teachers this means we’re only one month away from December and THEN its spring semester. New courses. New research. New projects. So I decided I would plan ahead to prevent becoming overwhelmed in December. I would begin my prep for spring in November.

Sounded amazing. In theory.

So I pulled up my November Outlook calendar and although this isn’t directly from Outlook, my week to week November looks something like this:

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
8:00 Prep for the week Off Campus… Office hours $Site Visits Take kids to school
9:00 Meetings …maybe meetings Office hours Meetings  Still driving
10:00 Meetings …site visits Office hours Meetings Office hours
11:00 Meetings …maybe writing… Office hours Meetings Office hours
12:00 Meetings …but usually not Class! Meetings Class!
1:00 Meetings  …rush back to campus dramatically Same Class! Meetings Same Class!
2:00 Class!  … About twenty minutes here to pee, maybe squeeze in a meeting Meetings Do all the things
3:00 Same Class!  … Then off to a different class! Meetings Do all the things
4:00 Class-After-Class  … Hooray for Class! Meetings Do all the things


*Lay head on desk.*

As I looked at my weekly schedule, I noticed two things: 1) Nowhere on here to did have dedicated time to write 2) I apparently get everything done on Friday afternoons and early Monday mornings. Clearly this is because no one wants to have meetings at these times. Otherwise, you know… I’d probably be in meetings.

I spend too much time every week in meetings. I have strong negative feelings about meetings.

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I’d rather be teaching. I know I need to be writing (I haven’t even written a blog post in a month!) And I’d rather spend my time helping students, creatively working on new teaching strategies, and most of all NOT BEING IN MEETINGS.

I have many problems with the concepts of a traditional academic meeting. Expectations for results seem rare. Lots of “discussion” occurs without set goals or ways to resolve. Meetings are regularly scheduled without agendas. And people attending meetings have varying levels of investment in the project. Last month I attended at least ONE meeting where no one knew who called the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, or what was on the meeting agenda.

Some of the problems which may occur in academic meetings are related to the people who attend them. Here are some of the types of personalities I see weekly in various meetings:

  1. The party animal. Some people are not as busy as you and I. They “like” meetings. Meetings allow them to feel involved, maybe important, and they enjoy spending time drinking coffee and/or eating lunch with their colleagues while calling it work. They are happy to kill time.
  2. The slacker. Some people come unprepared. Late. Without their work completed. If they grace you with their presence, they do not pay attention and poorly contribute. (Sounds like any college students you know?)
  3. The leader/slacker. The person running the meeting is unprepared. He or she has no plans, no agenda. This person want other people to magically get things done. NOPE. Come with specific goals in mind and problems to address please. Agenda!
  4. The absentee. No matter who assigns the meeting, this individual does not show up. They’re too busy or too important. So their work is never contributed to the project and the cycle of asking them to come to meetings continues. They are also like item number 2.

Its time to do something about it. Its time to break the cycle of meetings! Throughout the course of this fall semester, in order to prevent death by meetings from happening in the spring, I’ve attempted to implement some ideas some changes:

  1. Have fewer meetings. Email is key here people. We have online portals like Blackboard and Moodle. Lets make assignments, shared documents, even hard copies printed out in your mailbox! I am more productive as a team member if I am given a specific assignment.
  2. If you must meet, make it purposeful. Don’t meet for the sake of meeting. AGENDA’s are key.
  3. SMART goals: Amazingly nearly everyone I work with is familiar with the idea of SMART goals, however no one seemed to implement them in projects and meetings. We do however expect our students to write and implement SMART goals.
  4. 10x Brainstorm: A method to keep the creativity going, if indeed brainstorming is the agenda item for the meeting. The key is to not let the brainstorm float off somewhere- instead, the brainstorm ideas must be put into a purposeful format at the end of the discussion. The final step of this method is prototyping the brainstormed idea.
  5. Homework and shame: At the beginning of the meeting, everyone reports on their assigned work. Anyone then who did not accomplish their assigned work has to state their failure in front of the group. Bummer. This idea is however derailed if the academic leadership team does not enforce consequences for late work.

I may or may not be successful in having fewer meetings in the spring. I know that not everyone I work with embraces the idea of efficient meetings, or even better, FEWER meetings. I am however dedicated to having efficient meetings and fewer meetings where my projects are concerned. And I am personally looking forward to someday having a week which looks like this:

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
8:00 Prep for the week Research and writing off campus Office hours Early writing Take kids to school
9:00 Prep for the week in my own lovely office Office hours Research  …
10:00 Prep for the week with the door shut Office hours Inspirational creativity for teaching Office hours
11:00 Prep for the week and no one interrupting me Office hours Working with struggling students Office hours
12:00 Prep for the week Class! Writing Class!
1:00 Team meetings for the week Same Class! Writing Same Class!
2:00 Class! Break Writing Class-After-Class
3:00 Same Class! Then off to a different class! Writing Happy Hour
4:00 Class-After-Class Hooray for Class! Writing Go home and enjoy the weekend.

A wonderful week. A week with few meetings. An academic can dream…

Dr. Nerd Mom

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