I have spent the last few weeks trying to pretend that I don’t have to go back to teaching in the spring. Even though I enjoy teaching, it has still been wonderful having the time off. Today, however, I came to the sudden realization that despite lying to myself about it the past few weeks, I do have to go back to work.
The shocking moment came as I was looking at my schedule and I realized that I have meetings to attend tomorrow and Friday. I’m pretty sure meetings are scheduled like this at the beginning of the semester in order punish teachers for some unknown trespass. After having a wonderful time at home, you abruptly are thrown back into working. Now, if you started off with teaching, you would at least have the benefit of working with students and talking about interesting topics. Instead, you have meetings.
“Welcome back to classes, we look forward to the coming semester.” The meeting (any meeting) will begin. This will then be followed by, “In order to ensure this, you will need the following information…” At this point, whoever is charged with giving the presentation will rattle off a lot of information.
If this is your first semester teaching, a lot of this information would be extremely useful. However, there is so much material presented in such a short time, that you will likely remember none of this. Instead, you will be left to figure it all out on your own during the semester when you are trying to be teaching.
On the other hand, if this is not your first semester, you already know anything that will be said. Instead of paying attention, you will most likely spend this time thinking about all of the work your should have, but didn’t do, over break. You will make a list of the syllabi and the lecture you have to write before classes actually start. As your mind wanders, you start mentally writing out everything you will do as soon as the meeting is over.
Now, if you’ve given up on looking like you are paying attention, you brought your laptop with you. If asked, you’ll state you are taking notes, but you are actually just getting all the work done that you actually need to do. I have not gotten to this point yet, so I am trying to do the work mentally and save the notes in my head so that I can unload all the information the second the meeting is over. Even though I spend the time thinking the meeting is a waste of time, I’m at least happy I’m getting something done.
Well, that is until the inevitable happens. There is always that one person that thinks that these meetings are actually meant as an exchange of ideas. This person wants to seem intelligent, important or interesting, so they ask questions or make comments about something that was said in the meeting. The person only comes off as annoying. No one else cares about the specific example they brought up, or that they think it would be better to do things some other way. What’s worse, for those not actually working on the computer, is that the questions throws the flow of the meeting off.
With the normal, monotonous flow of the meeting, it isn’t hard to get work done. However, the interruption grabs your attention enough that, not only can you not get more work done, but you forget a significant portion of the things you had already done. To add to the problem, the questions go on, making the meeting go over and keeping you from getting something actually productive done.
After the meeting
By the end of the meeting, I am so happy that the meeting is over, that I immediately get to work on something worthwhile. The following hours of productivity brings me from, “the semester is starting?” to “I’m ready to go!” At a different school I worked out, the department chair told me that this was the actual goal of pre-semester meeting. The meeting should be so boring, that you are happy that you get to do your teaching prep.
This is definitely the affect the meetings have on me. Therefore, if this is truly the administration’s plan, I have to say, “Bravo!” This is likely the most ingenious plan I have ever seen unfold.
If your semester is just starting, or has already begun, I hope that your meeting are as painless as possible. Even though you’ll get to spend less time at home with family or friends, the new semester will bring excitement and learning. I hope you enjoy this exciting time.
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