Nothing evokes instant dread in me like a department or faculty meeting. In fact, just the thought of a meeting, seeing a meeting written in my calendar, or getting a friendly reminder that “we have a meeting tomorrow”—or Thursday, or next week— puts me in a bad mood, too. A fouler mood than wearing uncomfortable underwear does. I’d rather have to keep readjusting a persistent, stretched-out-underpants wedgie than sit with my department or the entire faculty for an hour the one time a month I am required to do so.
When I was the health educator at a formerly all-women’s college in Massachusetts, I had 40 hours of standing meetings a week at some point. They weren’t all dreadful, but the sheer amount of time spent in meetings precluded any attempts at finding balance in my on-campus job. After those meetings I still had programs to run and attend and plan and let’s just say that was the end of my career in higher education.
One of the things I looked forward to when I eventually started teaching was, well, teaching, not meeting. (I also looked forward to not being micromanaged, and that’s not working out so well these days either. But I digress.) And while two hours of meetings a month is nothing compared to forty a week, for those two hours I sit and we get nothing accomplished all I can think of is the papers I have to correct, the photocopies I have to make, the lab I have to prep or take down, and how poking my eye with a sharp pencil would feel better.
I don’t mind meetings if they are productive, if we were to get something done. However, it’s not like we’re rewriting mission statements or deciding on new disciplinary policies. We go through an agenda that can be handled as a memo—do this, don’t do that, we’re changing this no matter what you think. Sometimes we go through the motions of sharing our opinions, but they ultimately don’t matter in the end. Save me the time. Hand down orders in an email and let me do my thing. Or at least provide freshly sharpened pencils or mind-numbing pharmaceuticals to get us through the agenda. A few blow darts to put out the teachers who cannot go a single meeting without speaking up would be nice too.
Since I’m really not a fan of violence or torture, cancelling a meeting would be stupendous. Almost a good as a snow day…(Fingers crossed.)