Attended my first curriculum meeting today and I’m really glad I did. It was strange to walk into a formal meeting and not take the top table seat – old habits die hard.
Anyway once that bit of protocol was over with I settled down and introduced myself to the one person I’d not met before who turned out to be the functional skills coach. The whole department was there and our head of department took the hot seat and the meeting began. It’s the first formal setting I’ve been in with the department head since my course interview so it was good to see him in the hot seat instead of me. Habit overcame me again as I sat with my pen and paper as if I was about to take notes which was fortunate as the minutes secretary arrived a little late and had forgot to bring any so I quickly shoved mine across the table to her to prevent her losing face. We’ve all been there.
The meeting began with the usual ratification of last meeting’s minutes, matters arising and then went into a discussion around retention, attendance, progression, success projections, course suitability. I managed to make sense of most of it, a mental note was made of a couple of pieces of industry specific jargon which I’d not yet unearthed on my placement which one of my colleagues versed me on later. I’d kind of forgotten how jargonistic professionals become and I did drift for a moment to thinking of the poor people who had come into one of our strategy meetings in my former full time post and wonder how they ever made head or tail of it all. But then I reminded myself that I was the newbie before too and I’ve been the boardroom newbie so many times that I really should have known how it would go and that it would feel rather more familiar than I expected it to. Some of the same acronyms meant the same things, I guess when you’ve shifted from one target focused industry to another the key indicators and the ways of making sense of them are very similar and this quickly became apparent as I recognised that key terms were the same as those used in the health and social care arena and within project management, things like the RAG stats being one that springs to mind. Had I not had my previous experience this would have been lost on me and a lot of the first discussion was about these with everyone mentioning RAG at some point.
I was quite proud of feeling confident enough to add a suggestion when we were discussing how to engage business students from the beginning and make the course relevant and setting it in a real world context with clear career pathways and such. I hadn’t anticipated daring to speak at my first meeting but then as I say, the set up wasn’t daunting, it was familiar and just happening in a different place with a different set of professionals and a different load of jargon and acronyms to get used to.
It was an interesting experience and a valuable one, I’m sure it will help to attend these meetings so that when I am teaching ‘for real’ I will be not only refreshed on the protocols of formal meetings but also slightly more enlightened with regard to the format and lingo.
I’d definitely recommend to any fellow trainee teachers and prospective trainee teachers to take opportunities to go to formal meetings, it’s valuable time spent even if you do have to be meeting ready by 08.00am. It made me wonder how I ever coped with those days when I’d be in the office for 07.30 or at a meeting in Leeds or York for 08.00 and with two little kids to sort out too, gosh this is like a walk in the park.
But yeah, go to them especially if you have no experience of formal meetings to call on. This is your opportunity to get to be an observer, to see how it all works, to get to grips with the language and to see the pecking order in action and not only that but to observe the management style. All of the team are in attendance and if nothing else sitting back and watching how they all fit into the team, how the course leader and the head of department interact, who trembles when asked a question, how the head of department and course leader include the rest of the teaching staff into the meeting, what is the management style is it authoritative, it is top down or is it more inclusive and is the power shared, what are the decision making processes like? All of those things give indicators as to where the teaching staff fit in, how valued their input is, how welcomed and encouraged their contribution is, how empowered they are as the people at the coal face to input, challenge and how supportive they are of one another or how supported they are by their managers. It’s all interesting stuff especially if you know you are likely to end up working post qualification as a full member of that team, this is your chance to get a real feel for what goes on behind the scenes and to see if it’s the kind of culture which you feel you could fit into.
Just be careful to observe protocol, don’t speak out of turn, follow the agenda, be mindful of time, let the chair do his/her job and contribute concisely and confidently, nobody wants to be sitting around a table for any longer than necessary listening to someone pontificate or just as bad mumble and nervously try to articulate something that could have been fired out in a quick sentence.
Lots of learning done today… on my part and I’m supposed to be the teacher. I rushed from the meeting to take my year 1 class and now I’m having some office time, chatting with colleagues, picking up some tips, having some input into designing induction engagement activities for next year and contemplating other knock on benefits of those and catching up with some reflective blogging. After lunch before my final class of the week I’m going to expand a bit on my plan for my piece of writing on the two ILP targets I’ve chosen for another assignment and no doubt help out with whatever dramas life in the office brings.
Busy days but I really feel like I’m packing in the learning, for myself now and coming into my own as a teacher and member of the department. It might have been a haphazard start but it’s all working like clockwork now and I really feel I’m getting the most out of my placement. Just a shame it will be over before too long.