Meetings - Teacher Information
Pointers of Good Teaching Practice
The Meeting System
The meeting system is a complex interplay of dynamics, which include the relationships between children, teachers, the values of the school, and the school’s Special Character, the different values and objectives of the children and staff.
We recommend for new parents and new staff to take an observers role in their initial meetings, and if they are unsure of why/how a meeting progressed to discuss the meeting with the staff member who attended the meeting after the meeting.
The staff are expected to make many decisions within the meeting process, counter weighing many factors such as:
· Their relationship with the child and how much trust has been established
· Their knowledge of the history /background knowledge of the child
· The staff discussions about any prior/similar situations/meetings and their outcomes
· The experience level of the chairperson
· Whether the participants are respecting the meeting process
· The age of the participants.
The staff have no more, or no less rights than anyone else in the school i.e. everyone has the same rights. The chairperson has the ultimate responsibility for the meeting, the teacher does not have the right to over rule the chairpersons decision. Any person may challenge a meeting’s outcome and call another meeting to discuss the events of the previous meeting. The one exception regarding overruling a meeting’s decision is when it is to do with a ‘Safety Matter’. Nor can they over-ride the special character of the school” The principal has ultimate responsibility for the all safety rules. These safety rules can still be generated by the students in Whole School Meetings but they have to be approved by the principal.
When a teacher calls a meeting there is always another teacher at the meeting. A teacher can’t be in both the calling and support role. Another teacher is also required at a meeting when a meeting has been called with a teacher, or if a teacher is upset/angry and they need support from another teacher to keep everyone safe.
Description of a ‘Generalised Meeting Process’
No two meetings are the same; however there is a structure that gives a commonality to all meetings.
· The person (child or adult) decides that they would like a meeting
· They find a chairperson(sometimes with the assistance of a teacher)
· The chairperson is told ‘who needs to be at the meeting’ and decides where the meeting is to be held.
· The chairperson will find the people for the meeting and request them to come with the phrase “I request you to come to a meeting.”
· They will inform the participants where the meeting is to be held.
· If a child is refusing to come to a meeting the chairperson will seek the help of a teacher to get the child to the meeting.
· Once all the participants have been assembled the chairperson will start the meeting with the phrase, “Meeting come to order. Who’s calling this meeting?”
· The person who is calling the meeting puts up their hand, and the chairperson says the name of the person; giving that person ‘permission to speak.’
· The person will explain their reasons for calling the meeting.
· This will often result in the other participants putting up their hands to indicate that they want to say their side of what happened.
· The chairperson will:
o Keep order in the meeting by requesting people to stay in order
o Say who has permission to speak
o Ask clarifying questions
o Listen to all points of view
o Ask prompting questions
o Give feedback to the participants
o When it is appropriate they may decide on a consequence or non-punishment based outcome
· The chairperson will close the meeting, “Any more matters on this matter? (if no replies to this question) Any more matters? Meeting closed.”
Different ways Staff can empower children to call a meeting
· Recognise there is an issue and talk with the child about the issue.
· Ask them if they are feeling OK about what happened, and give feedback such as, “If that happened to me I’d be really unhappy and I’d want to have a meeting.”
· Remind the child that the meeting isn’t about ‘getting someone in trouble’ and that the person who did the behaviour needs to know how you feel, so that they know that the behaviour isn’t OK and can change their behaviour.
Sometimes a child may choose not to call a meeting. The teacher can make a judgement call and call a meeting themselves. It is important to clarify here that you are not calling the meeting for the child, but for your own reaction to what your saw (calling the meeting ‘for’ the child dis-empowers the child).
The choosing of a Chairperson
Usually the person calling the meeting will choose the chairperson. Some meetings however are of a ‘more sensitive nature’ than others, so the teacher will usually ask the person calling the meeting if they could help them find a chairperson. The staff will then think of many different factors involved in the sensitive matter and take into consideration
· The interrelationships between the students
· The maturity of chair people available at that time
· The chairperson-skills of the students available
· The degree of discretion and trust that the potential chairperson has.
They will then approach the student that they think would be the best chairperson for this particular incident and explain to that child that they need a an experienced chairperson and ask for their help. The child will usually accept, however sometimes the timing ‘just isn’t convenient for hem, so the teacher(s) would then generate a second choice and approach them etc.
The chairperson is expected to be impartial and not to take sides with their friends. The participants in a meeting can challenge the impartiality of a chairperson and request a different chairperson. Impartiality is a skill that a chairperson usually develops quickly because it is modelled by their peers, and there is an expectation that this is what happens in a meeting.
Common practices around 5 year olds at meetings (and also new students at school)
When students are new to our school there is an understanding that they won’t know all the rules, and that they may end up breaking a rule because they have not had experience of the rule, or the expected behaviour.
Where, and when possible, a ‘discussion’ is used instead of a meeting, during ‘the new child’s’ transition into the school.
When things ‘go wrong’ and the new child infringes on another child’s rights, a teacher will ask the person (who would normally call a meeting) if they would be happy if the staff member approached the new student and explained the rule to them. If the student decided that they need a meeting, then the teacher will usually direct the chairperson by reminding them that the child is new, and the teacher would provide the new person with lots of support.
An Experienced Chairperson
When an experienced chairperson has been chosen, often the teacher’s role in the meeting is redundant (the teacher may not need to raise their hand or say anything at all)
When the chairperson is inexperienced the teacher will usually support them. They will remind them of the process, give suggestions and guidance where needed. Overtime this will help the child to develop the skills and experiences needed to be independent in the role.
An experienced chairperson:
· Will enable all participants the opportunity to be heard.
· Will keep the meeting in order.
· Is fair, unbiased, and respectful
· Will give clear feedback
· May choose to challenge people on their behaviours.
· Will facilitate a mutual outcome, which may include a consequence.
· Will be sensitive to, and aware of, how their peers ‘behave’ and use their knowledge of the person to achieve a social and emotional awareness.
· Will enable participants to stand up for their rights, and will have a clear understanding of where one person’s rights stop and another’s start.
· Will enable kids/adults with different views and interests to exist together in the school community.
· Will be non judgemental and will create a safe environment
· Will keep the meeting free from having ‘and imposed’ morality
· Will be in line with the culture/values of the school including the Special Character.
Special Character Statement
In our Special Character it states:
· 3. The children are deeply involved in creating and maintaining the social structures by which the school functions. This involves rule-making, and dispute resolution through the mechanism of whole school and small meetings, which, when called take priority over all other activities. The school rejects punishments as a source of control or a response to inappropriate behaviour.
The meeting system is the backbone of the school and if a child is not prepared to regularly participate within the school’s ‘process’ it is considered a serious matter, as this is a prime focus of our special character and how our school functions.
There is an expectation that a child, or adult, must come to a meeting. In practise, we may delay a meeting for 5 minutes (to allow tempers to cool), or until the next morning (if the incident has happened after school) but the meeting will be held and is important.
Sometimes a parent might be asked to come into school to attend a meeting to either support, (or sometimes challenge) their own child’s behaviours. This is often where there has been a serious incident, or may be to challenge ‘a behaviour’ that has previously had many meetings called about it. The role of the parent in these meeting may be a more ‘active role’
Guidelines for parents at a meeting
For ‘standard’ meetings we have an expectation/hope that the parents who attend the meeting would be there in the ‘Observer Role’. That they are there to support their child but not speak for their child in meetings, as this dis-empowers the child, and the aim of the meeting is to empower the child to express themselves.
It is great if the parent can witness what is discussed in the meeting and can discuss this and support their child as needed after the meeting – or later on in the day. It is important for the parents to be able to refrain from putting their own views into the meeting.
It is expected that the parent would stay for the whole meeting where possible (sometimes parents just say their point and ask to leave).
We hope that parents will understand that teachers may be privy to confidential information about the children in the meeting
We hope that parents will bring an understanding, and awareness, that ‘one meeting’ will not ‘fix’ a behaviour and that the meeting system is a process to facilitate change ‘over time’.
We hope that parents will understand that there may have been many different meetings previously about a child’s behaviour, or that this may be the first meeting about this behaviour, and that meetings are a ‘learning continuum.’ We hope they will understand that they may be witnessing any stage on that continuum, and to be aware that the teacher may have ‘prior knowledge’ that the parent may not be aware of.
Refusing to come to meetings
If a child is outright refusing to be ‘part of the school’ and come to meetings, the staff may discuss this with their caregiver, and possibly come to an informal arrangement with their caregiver/parents where the parent chooses to take the child home until the child prepared to participate and come to a meeting to address their behaviour.
It is important that parents' understand, and respect, the meeting system process and realise that it under-pins how our school functions.
If a child is repeatedly, and over a long term, refusing to come to meetings it is possible that Tamariki School is not the right environment for their child. Sometimes parents need to support their child to overcome their anxieties, and help them to attend meetings. Over time we hope that the child will realise that meetings help them sort out issues and will see the benefit in them. Sometimes a more ‘formal’ stand-down process may be used especially if the child is repeatedly refusing to use the school's management systems i.e. come to meetings and participate in solving behaviour issues. This may lead to suspension if a child totally refuses to participate in the school’s system and take responsibility for the behaviour. Flexibility is given when the child is very young or new to the school.