All Talked Out – (MYoM – Part 10)

Tuesday is Team Meeting Day. That means the five main teachers of the school come together to discuss current issues and to plan the coming week. Often we are joined by other people -– someone from the board, someone who is in charge of one of the parent work groups – it depends on what is currently happening in the school. Sounds fairly straight forward, but the reality is that these meetings are the most circuitous, random, twisted, improvised, meandering, roundabout, spontaneous, and unsystematic talks imaginable.

The first few times I took part almost four years ago set all my inner alarm bells ringing. “This is no way to run a meeting!” I thought. I was impatient and irritated by all the extraneous remarks, the interrupting, the straying farther and farther from the issue in question. I would lose the thread of the conversation and was then suddenly surprised by the fact that everyone seemed to think the topic was settled. ““What did we just decide?”” I asked my neighbor. ““Did I miss something?”” (I should add here, that I was the only participant who was not speaking in her native language.)

At some point, I resigned myself to the fact that these meetings would last 4 to 5 hours and I relaxed. Slowly, I started to see some sense in doing things this way. We were anything but efficient, yet each meeting taught me something. There is value in letting everyone speak their mind, in giving time to both issues and the people affected by them. In slowly and democratically circling in on the core of the thing, the common threads and then finding a consensus that everyone can live with. Democracy is messy and it takes effort and time. And listening.

But this week’’s meeting was longer and more intensive than most, because the core issue was a sensitive one. The patron parent of former days is unhappy. Do we agree to his demands or do we stand by what we think is best for his children? (Not to mention the other 40 children in the school!) How do we get out of the corner we’’ve been boxed into?

After six hours we had used up all the words and we were still nowhere. It had only become clear which of the three bad alternatives seemed least bad to the most people. That would have to be our “decision”. I am still convinced there is a better one, but it seems we can’t get there from here.

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