A dilemma

businesswoman with megaphone held to her headBeing the versatile person I am, I currently teach three different subjects in my own personal fiefdom, with one other member of staff.

One of the things I utterly detest about teaching are the meetings. While you sometimes need to get people together to discuss stuff, most of the bi-weekly meetings we have are a colossal waste of time, either repeating the same BS over and over, or aimed at a much smaller group of people but nevertheless directed, aimlessly, at everyone.

Because I am, nominally, a head of department, I have to go not only to the soul-destroying general staff meetings but to the ‘curriculum leaders’ meetings too, in addition to the year team meetings. Then there are the department meetings, which although they can be useful are largely superfluous because I work closely with my one other colleague and we have mini meetings all the time. On top of all those you get your parents’ evenings, open evenings, options evenings, which wouldn’t be so bad except they’re often the third ‘meeting’ you have in a single week.

So. Meetings, most of which are arranged simply because as teachers we are obliged to work a certain number of hours. Some schools, I know, just direct staff to, you know, spend this time planning lessons and marking work, but in our school there’s a fetish for meetings.

If I could do my job without going to these meetings, I would. I get a little extra money for being a head of department, but I consider that the payment for being in charge of all the paperwork and exam/coursework admin, the detailed knowledge of the specifications, writing schemes of work, the burden of doing most of the assessment and for teaching the bulk of the hours.

So it turns out that our recently appointed head wants to combine my department (three subjects) with another three one-person subjects, so that only one of us has to go to all the curriculum leaders meetings. I kind of suspected this would be on the cards, and I already knew I didn’t want to do it. If I could be one of the lucky few who gets not to go to one bunch of meetings, I’d be a lot happier.


One of the three subjects has a very overbearing character in charge of it. A bit of a blow-hard, a person who doesn’t make it easy to get a word in edgewise. But her/his worst sin is a reputation for running to the boss all the time about the slightest little thing. It’s got so that I’ve stopped giving my opinion about anything within her/his earshot, because it’s certain to be reported back to the head. My own approach to life is to fly under the radar, sort myself out, and call upon outside agencies only when absolutely necessary. For example, I’ve kept my suite of Macs running, without interruption or loss of work, for seven years with very little technical support.

Anyway, this overbearing person would be up for the job, the in-charge-of-six-subjects job. Neither I nor any of the other teachers concerned would be happy for this to be the case. We all think s/he is overbearing and we all feel the same trust issues with regard to speaking openly.

Which leaves me with the dilemma. Do I let this happen and end up with a horrible line manager, or do I apply for this job I don’t want and go through the motions of pretending I want it?

2 responses to “A dilemma”

  1. [Places virtual pint on the table]


    A kind of ‘standing in the way of control moment’? Maybe it’s about options and shaping?

    Perhaps taking the lead could provide an ability to influence ‘the way we do things around here’?

    For example : Set up exemplar ‘short meetings only on important stuff’ regime? Harvard Bizzo etc.


    Some delegation / division for other meetings?

    Also the aspect of being ‘in play’ for the role. An opportunity to make a few points about different operating models at lobby/interview/selection time?

    I’m not sure that an alternative someone exhibiting Gove-style bypass manoeuvres is necessarily a better option – and I wonder how ‘the boss’ (& the other peers) see it too?


  2. Thanks for the reply @rashbre.
    Problem with education is twofold:
    1) Everybody who gets ahead does so by promoting some faddish way of doing things (though they’re never held to account for new initiatives that don’t work, or don’t get adopted).
    2) Nobody seems receptive to the idea that not all meetings are necessary.

    My thing with the current situation is that I’ve got so little interest in the job. Apart from face to face time with actual students, the situation is dire, and it gets worse and worse, thanks to people at several removes from my actual management. There’s little any of us can do at a local level – as people with no actual knowledge or evidence pontificate and legislate to their hearts’ content.


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