I’m not sure how old I was when I realized that there are many definitions of the word meeting. I couldn’t have been too old because that lesson usually comes early in life. People meet to discuss any number of things, and I’d be the first to admit that productive meetings can accomplish miracles. During my teaching career, I spent years in a mixture of meetings: faculty meetings, parental meetings, both as teacher and parent, planning meetings, and every other kind known to the educated man.
One principal I worked for early in my career thought it necessary to conduct 2-hour meetings every Tuesday afternoon whether he had anything to accomplish or not. He’d pack all 75 of us into a small meeting room, leaving only narrow aisles between chairs, barely enough space for his eternal pacing. Sometimes he had to turn sideways to get through. The spacious library and huge lunchroom sat empty while we inadvertently elbowed each other in the ribs. For two hours he marched forward and backward, discoursing at length on nothing. He rambled and ranted and raved about the conduct of students who threw “purple-flavored bubble gum” on the floor and stuck it under their desks. He read aloud assorted junk mail predicting the dark future of education and its certain demise. He attempted to give us all general lessons on good teaching, but totally missed the point. He was doing all the things to us that we were not supposed to do to our students. All educators, except him maybe, know that it’s best to keep lessons interesting, fairly short, and geared to students’ attention spans. One hundred and fifty eyes may have been trained on his face, but brains had been switched off after the first 10 minutes.
The absolute worst meetings of my life were band booster meetings from my past. I truly suffered. Nightmares occasionally still haunt my dreams. Fortunately I awaken and realize that my children are all grown up, and I never have to attend another booster meeting of any kind. My children were in band; therefore, I was in band boosters. That’s the way I wanted it, or so I thought.
Some years weren’t bad at all. We had an efficient president who took care of business and kept the meetings focused. They kept us all on task and meetings lasted an hour or so most nights. Then the year came when things fell apart. That spring we installed Johnny Carter (obviously a false name) as president and spent the summer under the delusion that all was well. It was--until that first meeting came around. Johnny told jokes and stories. He talked incessantly of his son Johnny, Jr., and his prowess on the tuba.
Meetings started at 7:00 so we could be home at a decent hour. That first night we left the band room at 10:30 and not much had been accomplished. Between Johnny’s jokes, various random conversations covered everything from recipes for barbeque sauce to shopping at J.C. Penney’s. As I lay in my bed that night, frustration kept me awake for hours until I finally arrived at a solution. I just wouldn’t go any more. I’d do my part and run the concession stand as I had for years, but I would not attend meetings. If the president or other officers needed me, I was as close as a telephone. That worked well for me.
Rambling meetings that accomplish nothing make me crazy still, and I certainly will not attend them now that I don’t have to. If the organization can’t accomplish a business meeting in one hour, then I don’t need to be in that group. My fellow members can suffer and complain as long as they choose, but they’ll soon find me conspicuously absent. There are too many good books waiting for me to read. I can mop my kitchen floor or scratch my dog’s ears. Even if I live to be 100, I do not have enough time left to sit through disorganized, bungling meetings. I have given them up, and not just for Lent. Forever!